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Election observers cite arrests, intimidation, harassment, police brutality

Intergovernmental Authority on Development [IGAD] and European Union [EU] observers have read out their reports to the press in Kampala as regards Thursday February 18, 2016 Uganda elections.

Former Tanzania President, Hassan Mwinyi, who led the East African Observer Mission, said the polls were the most competitive in Uganda’s history.

The head of IGAD Observer Mission, Mr. Yufnalis Okubo, said they observed delays in delivery of election materials.

IGAD/EAC mission said the election met “minimum standards of free and fair elections” but recommended the use of booths rather than basins to ensure secrecy.

According to African Union Observer Mission, police used heavy handedness and only targeted opposition.

“The police should enforce the law equally to all political parties.”

Chief Observer of European Union Election Observation Mission, Eduard Kukan, said the ruling party NRM “created an intimidating atmosphere for candidates and supporters up to election day”.

“Police storming of FDC headquarters is unacceptable,” EU observers maintained.

The observers say the arrest, harassment and intimidation of opposition supporters was reported in more than 20 districts.


“It is disturbing to hear that state funds are used to pay supporters to vote for a candidate.”

They said the incumbent was also given more prime time on televisions [11 hours] as opposed to opposition [4 minutes].

“This is not a levelled ground.”

When asked whether elections were free or fair, EU observers said: “The glass is half-full, the glass if half-empty.”

The head of the Commonwealth Observer Group, former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo, said delays were “inexcusable.”

A coalition of local election observers, Citizens Election Observers Election Network Uganda (CEON-U), indicated that the ruling NRM party had deployed agents in at least 85 per cent of the polling stations while the FDC party’s polling agent’s network covered 79 per cent.

Former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi’s polling agent network was put at 39 per cent across the country.

CEON-U’s chairperson, Livingstone Ssewanyana, noted that 95 out of every 100 polling stations: “had all strategic materials with the other remaining polling stations missing at least one of the ballot boxes, voter register, ballot papers, indelible ink, Biometric Voter Verification System (BVVS) or declaration of results form.”

Local election Observers said the high handedness of Uganda Police and other security agencies against opposition politicians and the public sparked off election violence.

Crispy Kaheru, the Executive Director Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy Uganda (CCEDU) says during this critical time when the electoral emotions are high, police ought to restrain from being brutal and abusing the human rights of Ugandans as it may fuel electoral violence.

“I think they raise a lot more anxiety and potentially this is the time we should be seeing security agencies, police specifically taking more restrained measures in handling such situations not arrests. At this time you want to tamper the anxieties of people not to flare them. And for me the temptation is, such arrests could end up flaring up, could end up inciting the public which could act in irrational ways. We don’t want to see that”, Kaheru told Uganda Radio Network.

Dr Martin Mwondha, the National Coordinator Citizens Election Observers Network-Uganda (CEON-U) says, the police despite its past record was expected to help achieve a free, fair and peaceful election which they have failed.

“Police intervention in blocking the movements of any citizen or any candidate is perceived as a big infringement on the rights of people. And that is what not we expect in an electoral process that is free and fair”, URN quotes Mwondha as saying.

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