(KAMPALA) – The weeks leading up to Uganda’s recently concluded elections were characterized by widespread violence and human rights abuses, a US-based rights body said.
Human Rights Watch, in a statement issued Thursday, said abuses included killings by the country’s security forces, arrests and beatings of opposition supporters and journalists, disruption of opposition rallies and nationwide shutdown of the internet.
The authorities should ensure thorough investigation and prosecution of those responsible for abuses, the rights body noted.
Last week, president Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of the presidential election held on January 14 with 58.64 per cent of total votes, defeating 10 other candidates who had contested.
According to Human Rights Watch, since election campaigns began in November last year, security forces clamped down on opposition members and journalists, violently arresting scores of people, including two of the opposition presidential candidates.
It cites the November 18 and 19, 2020 incident in which security forces clamped down on protesters demanding the release of then-detained Robert Kyagulanyi, resulting in at least 54 deaths.
“A democratic playing field for free and fair elections was worryingly absent during these elections,” said Oryem Nyeko, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Instead of restricting free expression, movement, and assembly, the Ugandan government should take concrete steps to improve respect for human rights for all and remove all remaining restrictions,” he added.
Uganda’s security forces are also accused of blocking people, including the US ambassador to Uganda, Natalie E. Brown, from attempting to visit Kyagulanyi.
Also cited were restrictions imposed on media covering opposition party members, where journalists were sometimes beaten or shot.
Authorities applied similar restrictions on activists and civil society groups, including blocking National Elections Watch Uganda, a coalition of local organizations, from monitoring the elections.
Meanwhile, the US-based human rights body urged Ugandan authorities to immediately end all forms of harassment and intimidation of journalists, opposition supporters and leaders, while advocating for protection of their rights, including freedom of movement and respect for the rule of law.
Source: Sudan Tribune