The government yesterday turned the heat on two of its key donors, the United States and the European Union, accusing them of backing attempts to cause regime change in Uganda using unconstitutional means.
In a statement, Mr Ofwono Opondo, the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, said the government took “strong exception” to what it called “continued unfair criticism” of the February 18 presidential election by the government of the United States, with the latest salvo being delivered by US ambassador to Uganda, Ms Deborah Malac.
Mr Opondo was reacting to Ms Malac’s keynote address at a symposium on governance and peace held at Hotel Africana in Kampala on Wednesday, in which she said: “The social media shutdown, the detention of Opposition figures, harassment of media – all of these things combined with poor organisation of the election have weakened Uganda’s democracy and tarnished Uganda’s image as a strong democracy in a turbulent region.”
Ms Malac’s statement came in the wake of criticism of Uganda before the United Nations Security Council by a US diplomat Samantha Power, who categorised President Museveni as a threat to peace in Uganda, and US president Barack Obama has until now not congratulated President Museveni upon his re-election.
“As we have said many times before, the US does not, and has not funded or supported any political party or candidate in Uganda,” the US Embassy spokesperson Christopher Brown, said in an email response to Daily Monitor yesterday. “The United States does not have a policy of regime change with respect to Uganda,” he said.
Mr Emmanuel Gyezaho, a press and information officer at the European Union mission in Kampala, said: “We dismiss these accusations with the contempt they deserve.”
Mr Opondo, who said in yesterday’s statement that many of the critics of the recent election had failed to prove that there was rigging, has in the recent past clashed with the EU mission in Kampala regarding the election.
The EU election observer mission, in its preliminary report, heavily criticised the conduct of the February election, saying it fell short of international and regional standards
But Mr Opondo, in the statement, mostly focused on the US. “The US, which uses raw power to project its influence and interests around the world, is the least competent to ask other nations for democratic accountability,” Mr Opondo said.
In reaction to this, the US Embassy spokesperson Mr Brown said: “We believe the Ugandan people deserve a government that is accountable to the people themselves .”
Mr Opondo, in arguing that the US government had no grounds on which to criticise the election, said it “sponsored an election observer team under the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy (EISD) in Africa, through the International Republican Institute (IRI) Washington DC.” This EISD observer mission, Mr Opondo said, “issued a report giving credit to Uganda’s just concluded elections.”
But, whereas the US “thought it important to support the efforts of a well-regarded and non-partisan African civil society organisation to monitor the elections’, said Mr Brown, “the report from the Institute is based on the observations of its own observers and is not an official statement from the U.S. government.” “International Republican Institute (based in Washington, D.C.) had no connection to EISA’s efforts,” Mr Brown added.
On the conduct of the armed forces during the elections, EISA’s summary report pointed out: “The mission noted with concern the level of public mistrust of the security forces as they were accused of showing favour to the NRM, to the disadvantage of other parties. Senior members of the army and police also made partisan statements against the Opposition during the election period. This impacted negatively on public confidence in their impartiality and conflict resolution capacity.”
The EISA observers wrote in their conclusion: “The EISA EOM therefore concludes that the observed shortcomings were inconsistent with the requirements of the legal framework for elections in Uganda and international and continental principles and obligations for democratic elections; thus undermining essential aspects of electoral integrity.”
The Electoral Commission on February 20 declared Mr Museveni winner with 60.75 per cent of the vote, with Dr Kizza Besigye coming second with close to 36 per cent of the votes.
Dr Besigye, who has largely been in confinement since then, rejected the results despite the election being upheld by the Supreme Court after Mr Amama Mbabazi, who came a distant third with just over one per cent of the votes, filed an election petition. Dr Besigye has called for an internationally supervised audit into the election.
The full statement from the government of Uganda
The Uganda Government notes and takes strong exception to the continued unfair criticisms about its elections and human rights records by the US Ambassador Ms. Deborah Malac. We would like to briefly respond as follows;
The U.S. Government sponsored an election observer team under the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy (EISD) in Africa, through the International Republican Institute (IRI) Washington D.C. This was led by former Zambian President Rupiah Banda, which issued a report giving credit to Uganda’s just concluded elections.
We would like to advise Ambassador Deborah Malac to carefully read that report. Unless she is giving it a vote of no confidence, then she is at liberty to keep referring to and relying on the partisan and very shallow EU report.
lt is strange that Ambassador Malac doesn’t refer to the report her government commissioned. Secondly, she doesn’t acknowledge that late delivery of ballot materials was in only two out of 112 districts in Uganda.
These were isolated incidents and indeed time was extended and all voters who wished to vote did cast their votes, and those votes were counted, tallied and added to final results.
Since the publication of the Uganda Presidential Election results, none of the observer groups has come with credible evidence to challenge the results posted by Electoral Commission. We therefore wish to ask them to either adduce evidence or keep their peace for good.
Otherwise, we know that some groups in the US and EU, including diplomats accredited to Uganda, funded and are still funding opposition elements in Uganda to cause government change outside the constitutional framework but are disappointed this hasn’t been successful as yet.
The US, which uses raw power to project its influence and interests around the world, is the least competent to ask other nations for democratic accountability. Uganda’s democracy is progressing well and we are satisfied with both the pace and achievements registered so far.