Ugandan election approaches as accusations of human rights violations mar campaign

14 January 2021 will be the General Election in Uganda. Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s current president, has held power for 35 years since 1986 and does not seem inclined to loose the vote this year. Global rights organisations have called for a free and fair democratic process for the election however the East-African nation’s “deteriorating” human rights record has come under intense scrutiny after an escalation of violence throughout the electioneering period. 

Museveni’s party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), has maintained a strong majority for the bulk of his tenure in office while monopolising Uganda’s parliament. The NRM has twice changed the constitution to allow Museveni to run, initially removing the two-term limit in 2005 and then abolishing the age limit of 75 in 2017.

Museveni is opposed by 11 candidates in total, with reggae singer and opposition leader Bobi Wine considered the frontrunner. However they face odds stacked against them as the election process has the same lack of scrutiny and oversight which has remained a constant throughout Museveni’s presidency, 

The lead-up to the elections has been marred by violence, with a wave of human rights abuses documented as the polls approach. Killings, beatings, and violent dispersal of opposition supporters characterised the period following the start of electoral campaigns on 9 November 2020.

At least 54 people were killed during protests between 18 and 19 November, following the arrest of opposition presidential candidate, Bobi Wine. Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena described these killings as a “warning call to the world that worse may be yet to come”, going on to state that: 

“it is imperative that the Ugandan authorities reverse the persistent use of excessive force by the security forces, arbitrary arrests and detention and attacks on journalists.”

Concerns have also been voiced with regard to the imposition of discriminatory Covid-19 restrictions, with many fearing that they may be used to inhibit political participation. Ugandan authorities have repeatedly blocked political opposition from holding campaign events, saying that they contravene curbs on gatherings to stop the spread of COVID-19.

These restrictions are not employed in the same “strict manner” for campaign activities conducted by the ruling party, according to OHCHR Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani, who said that:

 “we have increasingly observed that the COVID-19 restrictions have been enforced more strictly to curtail opposition electoral campaign activities in a discriminatory fashion. 

The use of violence to attain legislative power can not be tolerated. Ugandan authorities must ensure the participation of the electorate is not hindered and that they respect democratic procedure, regardless of the result.

The post Ugandan election approaches as accusations of human rights violations mar campaign appeared first on International Observatory of Human Rights.

This post was originally published on International Observatory of Human Rights.