The government of Ugandan has responded to remarks made by US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power during the UN Security Council debate on March 21, 2016 on maintenance of international peace and security; prevention and resolution of conflicts in the Great Lakes Region.
Samantha acknowledged Uganda’s positive contribution to international peace and security in the region by hosting over 500,000 refugees.
She was however critical of the Uganda’s democratic process citing the 2016 elections noting that security forces detained opposition figures without legal justification harassed their supporters and intimidated media.
She also cited the legislation restricting operations of non-governmental organisations and that president Museveni actions contravened the rule of law, jeopardised Uganda’s democratic process and threatened the country’s future stability and prosperity.
In his February media statement, Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda said opposition leader Kizza Besigye had made inflammatory statements threatening to make the country “un-governable” through his defiance campaign.
In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [MOFA] on Wednesday, Government says it had credible information that Besigye had every intention to mobilise a “one million march” to the electoral commission located in the middle of Kampala city to collect his election results.
“A march of this nature would have caused mayhem in the city centre and disrupted normal business. The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens and their property and immediately imposed restrictions on those who wished to cause disruption and breach public order,” a MOFA statement said.
The statement also said the Ugandan media environment is “free, pluralistic and mainly driven by the private sector” citing 24 daily and weekly newspapers, 26 free to air and 5 pay-tv stations as well as 220 licensed and operational radio stations countrywide.
“Government doesn’t exercise editorial or content supervision nor censorship and more so, at no time during the recently concluded elections.”
MOFA said the law in Uganda mandates only the electoral commission to conduct and declare election results.
“Restrictions on social media from February 18-20 were based on reliable information available to government that some individuals were planning to cause disruption, mayhem and violence using social media platforms.”
MOFA coted an example where opposition was planning to declare their “own doctored unofficial results” through social media, contrary to the law.
“Lessons remain fresh of the significant role that hate media played in the genocide in Rwanda. This restriction in public interest cannot be interpreted as intimidation to the press.”
On the issue of the NGO Act, MOFA said the purpose was to align the activities of the non-governmental organisations with the national priorities and government development plans as well as to extend to them the same accountability they advocate for other actors.
“Contrary to the views expressed by Amb Power, the preventive measures Uganda government has put in place are to protect Uganda’s young democracy and promote stability and prosperity in Uganda and the region as a whole.”
“These measures emanate from the need for balance in all democratic dispensations. We all have rights as well as responsibilities especially with regard to acting within the rule of law even as we claim our individual rights.”