US Cancels Observation of Ugandan Presidential Election By Reuters

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KAMPALA (Reuters) – The United States canceled its observation of the Ugandan presidential elections because most of its accreditation requests were denied and said Thursday’s vote would lack accountability and transparency. The announcement adds to a growing chorus of concern over the credibility of the election that pits Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, against 10 candidates, including opposition favorite Bobi Wine, a popular singer. While previous elections have been marred by opposition repression, this time the campaign has been particularly violent. Dozens of people have been killed and opposition candidates, supporters and campaign personnel have been repeatedly arrested and intimidated. The European Union said Tuesday that the electoral process had been seriously marred by the excessive use of force and its offer to deploy a small team of electoral experts was not accepted. A coalition representing hundreds of Ugandan civil society organizations said on Wednesday it had submitted 1,900 applications for accreditation, but only 10 had been granted. “Without strong participation by observers, particularly Ugandan observers who are accountable to their fellow citizens, Uganda’s elections will lack the accountability, transparency and trust that observation missions provide,” the US embassy in Uganda said in a statement tweeted by his ambassador. Museveni spokesman Don Wanyama said the African Union and the East African Community would deploy observers and that he did not remember when Uganda last sent monitors to the United States. In a televised speech on Tuesday, Museveni dismissed interference from foreign partners, saying they did not understand that Uganda’s strength came from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), the military and the economy. “So, we don’t need lectures about anything from anyone. Because there is nothing we don’t know,” Museveni said, wearing a military camouflage jacket. ‘PREVENTIVE BULLYING’ Uganda is a Western ally, a potential oil producer and sees itself as a stabilizing force in a region where war has plagued some neighbors. It also contributes the largest contingent of an African Union force fighting Islamist insurgents in Somalia. Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, is one of the first opposition politicians to channel youth complaints into a viable challenge and this has rocked the NRM, analysts say. With almost 80% of its population under the age of 30, Uganda has one of the youngest populations in Africa. That means the majority of Ugandans were born after Museveni came to power in 1986 after a five-year guerrilla war. More than a dozen European countries, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States on Tuesday raised concerns about press freedom and harassment of reporters ahead of the vote. Journalists covering opposition protests have been attacked by security forces. Last week, Police Chief Martin Okoth Ochola said journalists would be beaten for their own good, to prevent them from going to places where their lives could be at risk. “It’s hard to say there will be no violence,” said a senior EU diplomat. “The entire security apparatus will be on the streets. Theoretically that brings calm, but I think we know that it only brings sources of tension.” Uganda also banned all social media platforms and messaging apps on Tuesday until further notice. Museveni apologized for the inconvenience, but said Uganda had no other choice after Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 removed some accounts that supported its ruling party. In what analysts called a show of force amounting to pre-emptive intimidation, a convoy of armored military vehicles passed through predominantly oppositional areas of the capital Kampala on Tuesday. “The systematic attempt to stop free information, intimidate voters and harass opposition candidates means that this is no longer a credible election,” said Nic Cheeseman, professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham.