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US pulls out of observer group as Uganda goes to polls today

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Economy

US pulls out of observer group as Uganda goes to polls today


Yoweri Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. PHOTO | AFP

Summary

  • The American ambassador to Uganda, Natalie Brown, said in a statement on Wednesday that the electoral commission had failed to issue the majority of observers with the necessary documents, leaving them with no choice but to withdraw their support.
  • Ms Brown said that only 15 of its observers had been granted access to the polls, a number short of the figure that the mission had requested, just a day before the country heads to one of its hotly contested polls in decades.

The United States has cancelled its decision to observe Uganda’s election today after the East African country’s electoral commission failed to accredit most of the people on its team.

The American ambassador to Uganda, Natalie Brown, said in a statement on Wednesday that the electoral commission had failed to issue the majority of observers with the necessary documents, leaving them with no choice but to withdraw their support.

Ms Brown said that only 15 of its observers had been granted access to the polls, a number short of the figure that the mission had requested, just a day before the country heads to one of its hotly contested polls in decades.

“It is with profound disappointment that I announce US Mission in Uganda’s decision to cancel our diplomatic observation of Uganda’s January 14 elections due to the decision by the Electoral Commission of Uganda to deny more than 75 percent of the US election observer accreditations requested,” she said.

“With only 15 accreditations approved, it is not possible for the United States to meaningfully observe the conduct of Uganda’s elections at polling sites across the country.”

The ambassador’s statement follows reports of new tension between Ugandan police and the opposition after President Yoweri Museveni’s opponent Robert Kyagulanyi, popular as Bobi Wine, claimed that a number of his security personnel had been arrested during an early morning raid on Wednesday.

Bobi Wine, through his official Twitter handle, said the raid also resulted in the withdrawal of security officers attached to members of his staff.

“So, the private security company that has been guarding my home for the last 12 years has been ordered to withdraw security at my house. Their supervisors showed up unannounced at midnight, disarmed my guard and said they had instructions to immediately withdraw my security,” he said.

Uganda heads to what many observers describe as one of the country’s most fiercely fought presidential elections, pitting President Museveni against Bobi Wine and 10 other contestants.

Bobi Wine, a popular figure among the youthful urban population, has in the past few months waged a strong campaign against Mr Museveni’s leadership, accusing the Head of State of dictatorship, intimidation and running down the economy.

But the 76-year old president, who has expressed confidence of winning a sixth term in office, has termed the campaigns by the opposition inconsequential, accusing Bobi Wine and his team of poisoning the otherwise peaceful Uganda with radical ideas.

Ms Brown also said that concerns were growing over reports that a number of missions, observers and members of the civil society had been denied access to observe the elections, raising doubts on the credibility of the polls.

“Numerous civil society organisations planned to observe the elections, but many have not heard back from the Electoral Commission on their accreditation applications. Among those civil society organisations which already had organizational accreditation, the vast majority of their individual observers have not yet – two days ahead of elections – received accreditation badges,” she said.

“Uganda’s elections will lack the accountability, transparency and confidence that observer missions provide. Uganda will also miss the opportunity to benefit from observers’ insights to improve and inform future elections.”



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