The U.S. Embassy calls again on Ugandan authorities to release Dr. Kizza Besigye from house arrest and to permit him to travel freely. We note that Dr. Besigye has been under near continuous police detention since the February 18 election, has not been charged with any crime, and was denied his constitutional right to participate in the February 24 elections.
We further call upon Uganda authorities to cease and desist from any further harassment or intimidation of members of the opposition, such as the reported arrests of FDC party agents. Officials of all parties, including the opposition, must be allowed to provide their leadership with polling data collected during the vote, free from intimidation or threat of detention, in accordance with international norms and the principles of a democratic society.
We are also deeply concerned by the Electoral Commission’s delay in releasing polling data. This, along with Dr. Besigye’s detention and arrest of party agents, has inhibited citizens’ ability to verify vote tallies and potentially challenge the election results in court within the constitutionally mandated ten-day period.
We expect the Ugandan authorities to uphold the rights of all of their citizens, regardless of political affiliation, and allow the opposition to play a legitimate role in the country’s politics. We further expect all parties to refrain from actions or rhetoric that may lead to violence and to resolve their disputes peacefully.
“Uganda’s newly re-elected President Yoweri Museveni who was declared winner of last week’s presidential election and has been in power for 30 years. He talks about the opposition and why he is against presidential term limits. He spoke to BBC Africa’s Zuhura Yunus in his country home in Rwakitura, Western Uganda” (BBC Africa, 2016).
ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned by the decision by the Uganda Communications Commission to block access to social media while millions of Ugandans head to the polls on election day.
This morning, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) blocked social media sites. UCC’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Fred Otunnu cited “national security” and that the platforms were being “used to campaign on voting day”. He added that Uganda Electoral Commission had complained about alleged online campaigns that were continuing after 16 February, when all election campaigning was required to cease.
Henry Maina, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa explained that “this ban on social media platforms is part of a number pervasive systemic measures by the government of Uganda to limit freedom of expression and access to information during the election period. Blanket bans on social media cannot be justified under international law and are wholly disproportionate.”
“At a time when the world’s gaze is on Uganda and the Presidential elections, we call on the Ugandan authorities to immediately revoke the blocking of social media and allow Ugandans to exercise their right to freedom of expression, as well as their right to participate in a free and open election process,” added Maina