The head of the European Union Election Observation Mission to Uganda, Mr Eduard Kukan, yesterday expressed disappointment with the Electoral Commission for snubbing a meeting to discuss the conduct of just concluded polls.
Speaking yesterday at the presentation of the Mission’s final report on the disputed February 18 polls, Mr Kukan said they still consider “Uganda as a serious partner.”
“We have been very disappointed by the Electoral Commission. We asked for audience with them, and they told us they were not available,” Mr Kukan told Daily Monitor on the sidelines of the function, also attended by envoys from the EU Delegation and US Ambassador Deborah Malac.
“But we insisted to meet even [junior] deputy commissioners to share with them our findings in good faith. Instead, they gave us an appointment next week well aware our flight back is tonight,” he said.
Electoral Commission spokesperson Jotham Taremwa, however, denied the claim, saying the EU team requested for a meeting and EC agreed to the request.
“We had scheduled to meet with them on April 26 and we were told they will have travelled then,” Mr Taremwa noted.
The 42-page report is a detailed account of the preliminary findings of the Mission issued on the eve of the elections results announcement on February 20.
The report indicates that the February 2016 polls took place in a challenging political environment and offers several recommendations to better subsequent polls.
“EC lacked independence and transparency whereupon the elections fell short of international standards … state actors were instrumental in creating an intimidating atmosphere for both voters and candidates, and police used excessive force against the Opposition, media and the general public, justifying it as a “preventive measure”. This violated fundamental freedoms of movement, expression and assembly, and curbed access to information,” the reads in part.
However, Mr Kukan, was noncommittal on concluding the elections were not free and fair, saying: “That is up to you to judge. For us what we do is to observe and report what we saw,” Mr Kukan said.
He intimated that as a follow-up, unlike the last time, EU will send another observer mission in the near future to follow up on the implementation of the recommendations.
President Museveni, in power for 30 years, was declared winner of the February 18 elections with 60.7 per cent with his closest rival and four-time challenger FDC’s Kizza Besigye coming second with 34 per cent of the total votes cast.
•Establishing an inclusive and transparent selection, appointment and removal mechanism for the EC commissioners and key executives.
•EC be granted sole regulatory power to regulate essential parts of the electoral process, including voter registration, polling, tallying and the electoral disputes.
•Clear and detailed provisions for collection and tallying of results be established well before elections and systematically implemented.
Non committal: The EU is non committal on whether the polls were free and fair.