US ‘troubled’ at Uganda closing civic space

US Ambassador to Uganda Ms Natalie E Brown expressed 'serious concern' over denying Ugandan Civil Society Organizations access to bank accounts ahead of election season this week. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY. 

What you need to know:

  • Ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) has run a campaign ahead of elections, claiming foreigners have been lead aides of opposition facets in landlocked Uganda.

The United States Embassy, on January 9 voiced agitation saying it was “seriously concerned over disturbing signs that civic space is closing” with the presidential elections less than four days away.

The US according to Ambassador Natalie E. Brown, remains concerned about restrictions on Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), delayed accreditation of domestic observers by the Electoral Commission, and interference with non-partisan voter education programming funded by Uganda’s international democratic partners, who have raised serious concerns about Uganda’s preparedness for a transparent, inclusive election.

Ms Brown condemned continued blockage, by Ugandan institutions, of bank accounts of several reputable and well-known CSOs, on questionable bases, preventing their important work on voter education, domestic election observation, public dialogues, and tracking and preventing election-related violence.

“We remain particularly concerned over how Ugandan institutions continue to block these globally accepted non-partisan election activities funded by the US, the European Union, and other international partners who are merely supporting the Ugandan people in living up to their own constitutionally mandated election standards,” she said. 

Ms Brown also pointed out a democratic and diplomatic relationship between the US and the electorate, lasting over 60 years.  
“We stand with all Ugandans who seek to deepen democracy and advance prosperity for all,” she said.
The US, she added, “urges the responsible authorities to ensure that expeditious due process is completed so that these organizations, which are helping the Ugandan people move closer to enjoying truly free, fair, and transparent elections, carry out their work. Democracy cannot be taken for granted.” 

“As longstanding friends and partners, we are troubled by the signs of closing political space, including the blocking of bank accounts of Ugandan civil society organizations working for the benefit of the Ugandan people,” Ms Brown added. 

The US, perceived to be one of the world’s major democracies saw that stand tested on January 6 after pro-Trump supporters breached Capitol security and stormed a Congress debate session seeking to certify president elect Joe Biden’s win.

Ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) has run a campaign ahead of elections, claiming foreigners have been lead aides of opposition facets in landlocked Uganda.

Cabinet Minister in Charge of General Duties, Ms Mary Karooro Okurut Saturday said, “The Americans should not come here and try to teach us democracy. Americans cannot come here to disorganize our peace,” while according reference to the recent US Capitol attack. 

Meanwhile Ms Brown’s statement follows speculation about a looming cut off, alike during 2016 elections, of digital services during the election period.