NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 16 – A coalition of African civil lobby groups is demanding the unconditional release of 26 observers arrested in Uganda in the buildup to Thursday’s presidential and parliamentary election.
The coalition which included HAKI Africa, INUKA Africa and Kenya Human Rights Commission made the call on Saturday during a press conference in Nairobi moments after President Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of the contested election, securing a sixth five-year term in office.
Museveni won 58.6 per cent of the vote, in an election disputed by his main rival Bobi Wine who trailed behind with 34.8 per cent, according to figures released by Uganda’s electoral commission on Saturday.
“The police are continuing arrest of civic actors and other people of conscious who are calling for transparency in the elections,” the civil societies told journalists.
While discrediting Thursday’s poll, INUKA Africa official Kwaive Wambua faulted the country’s electoral commission results transmission mechanism which is said to have electronically relayed election results despite a government-imposed internet shutdown.
“Agents at polling stations from various polling stations were told to wait for the chairperson to verify and issue a declaration of results, an irregular act which did not allow verification at the presidential tallying centre,” Wambua said.
“The use of fibre optic transmission instead of local interet offers an opportunity for preferential treatment of specific electoral players- it barre s other from participating effectively,” HAKI Africa’s Zaina Kombo added.
Irene Soila of Kenya Human Rights Commission, on the other end, blamed European Union observers who assessed the polls as free and fair. She termed the move as pure hypocrisy saying their actions amounted to validating electoral fraud.
“The Electoral Commission has disregarded due process., reports from civil society societies paint a grim picture of an electoral process mutated into a security operation, brutal force and secrecy,” Soila said.
Wambua urged East African countries avoid involuntary returning asylum-seekers fleeing Uganda.
She said the fleeing of Ugandan citizens to neighbouring countries should worry the international community.
“We urge governments of Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Rwanda not no involuntary return asylum seekers. Forcing unwilling and fearful asylum seekers back to insecure countries of origin is in direct violation of Universal Declaration Of Human Rights and the African Charter On Human And People’s Rights,” the lobby groups affirmed.
Uganda’s 2021 election has been described as the most violent in decades with elections marred by chaos triggered by harassment and arrest of the opposition figures, attacks on the media.
At least 54 people were reported to have died in the ensuing violence.