What you need to know:
- The Civil Society Reference Group (CSRG) took issue with comments attributed to President Yoweri Museveni who, in an address to the nation after he was declared winner on Saturday night, said the election was “the only one free of cheating since 1962”.
The just-concluded general election in Uganda was not free, fair and accountable “by any stretch of the imagination”, a Kenyan civil society group has said.
The Civil Society Reference Group (CSRG) took issue with comments attributed to President Yoweri Museveni who, in an address to the nation after he was declared winner on Saturday night, said the election was “the only one free of cheating since 1962”.
“Elections are not just about what happens on polling day but also the extent to which all candidates and their political parties are able to freely associate, assemble and articulate their ideas to the electorate,” CSRG said in a statement signed by its presiding convener, Churchill Suba.
The organisation warned of a “dangerous pattern” in the region, where incumbents keen on remaining in power change the rules to ensure continued dominance of their political parties and capture of the State and government.
The Electoral Commission of Uganda declared Mr Museveni winner 58.64 per cent of the votes and opposition candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as musician Bobi Wine, the runner up with 34.83 per cent.
Wine, the National Unity Platform candidate, has rejected the result of the poll that was characterised by violence and an unprecedented internet shutdown.
In addition, only 52 per cent of all registered voters cast their ballots.
Mr Suba said the decision to shut the internet deprived the process of integrity and accountability.
He also noted that the election needed to meet international benchmarks for free, fair, transparent and accountable elections that could have inspired some level of confidence in the process, especially on polling day.
“It is improper and unacceptable that a political competitor in the same elections should abrogate himself and unilaterally exercise the power to switch off social media without the concurrence of other candidates, and still brag about his win,” he said.
Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Telegram have become important political tools in the digital age as they enable political parties and candidates to pass and access information, in order to make informed choices.
Mr Suba regretted that opposition candidates were unable to communicate with their supporters.
He accused NRM of clamping down on the media, citing cases where law enforcement officers drawn from the military and the police service were uninhibited in attacks on journalists, using live ammunition, rubber bullets, truncheons, and teargas canisters.
“Looked at from a regional perspective, the general election in Uganda is the latest confirmation that there is a steady democratic backsliding in the East and Horn of Africa, characterised by erosion of the gains that the peoples of the region painstakingly made against one-party autocracy in the early 1990s, as the continent embraced liberal democracy,” Mr Suba said.
He said that in Rwanda and Uganda, incumbents have manipulated constitutional provisions on presidential term and age limits to grant themselves extra time in office at the expense of democratic progression towards a more liberal democratic dispensation.
Mr Suba also noted that in all of the five EA countries, institutions of oversight, including the judiciary, law enforcement, and NGO regulation agencies, have been systematically targeted to ensure their loyalty and protection of the government of the day.
“We have also seen systematic and savage attacks of critical media, political opponents and business people, with the aim of demoralising and weakening opposition to the government of the day,” he added.