Poll violence will have consequences, US tells Uganda

Pre-election violence in Uganda on November 19, 2020. [AFP]

The United States has reiterated its call for a free, fair, credible and peaceful election in Uganda.

In a statement on Thursday, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said repeated violence and excessive use of force by security forces are deeply troubling.  

The secretary of state said the US is paying close attention to the actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process and will not hesitate to "consider serious consequences for those responsible for election-related violence and repression."

"We urge the government to ensure the safety of all candidates, respect the right of peaceful assembly of all Ugandans, and ensure that election authorities and security forces act impartially."

Pompeo added that the Ugandan government should create a safe environment for civil society and non-governmental organisations to undertake election training and monitoring.  

"While measures taken to reduce the spread of Covid-19 are imperative, they must not be used as justification for repression and violence."

Pompeo went on to say security officials responsible for the excessive use of force must be held to account, and candidates must be afforded freedom of movement and access to media.  

"Political violence, repression, and intimidation have no place in democracies."

This comes as the European Union said it will not deploy an observer mission for Uganda’s presidential election in January after complaints that advice from previous observers to make the polls fair went unheeded.

In the January 14 vote, President Yoweri Museveni, 76, will face off against youthful pop star and lawmaker Robert Kyagulanyi, widely known by his music moniker Bobi Wine and who is seen as the incumbent president’s closest competitor.

In the same election, voters will also pick their lawmakers.

The EU typically sends the largest team of any similar blocs - a total of 94 monitors were sent at the last poll - and they have stayed in the country sometimes for up to three months.

According to an EU 2018 report, none of the 30 recommendations made by the observer mission sent to monitor the last election in 2016 was implemented.

The recommendations included reforms to make the poll body more independent, elimination of excessive use of force by the armed forces and more transparency in tallying.

Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo and Museveni’s spokesman, Don Wanyama, were not immediately available for comment.