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UN: Uganda Poll Marred by Violence, Rights Abuses

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - Ugandan riot police stand close to dejected opposition supporters to prevent them from demonstrating, shortly after the election result was announced, in downtown Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 20, 2016.

FILE - Ugandan riot police stand close to dejected opposition supporters to prevent them from demonstrating, shortly after the election result was announced, in downtown Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 20, 2016.

The United Nations' human rights office is condemning violence and alleged human rights abuses that marred last week's presidential elections in Uganda. U.N. human rights monitors say two people were killed — one as police broke up an opposition rally, and the other as police disrupted a post-election protest.

U.N. monitors say military and police forces in the capital, Kampala, have imprisoned several opposition figures, including three presidential candidates. Among those is Kizza Besigye, head of the Forum for Democratic Change, or FDC, who was arrested and released on three different occasions last week, and arrested yet again Monday, according to human rights spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly.

"We are also concerned about the intimidating display of force used on Friday by Ugandan police and military forces to evacuate the FDC headquarters in Kampala, with tear gas and live ammunition reportedly used,” Pouilly said, “and by worrying information of journalists being harassed and intimidated by security forces."

President Yoweri Museveni, in office since 1986, won a fifth term by a large margin in an election which many observers describe as flawed and full of irregularities.

U.N. monitors report that the situation in Uganda has calmed down somewhat, but the possibility of further riots cannot be ruled out, Pouilly told VOA.

Her agency also is concerned by the Internet shutdown of the WhatsApp messenger service and Facebook just before the election.

"We had obvious concerns about this shutdown and the possibility for people to exchange views,” Pouilly said. “We understand that both applications have now been restored. We feel that the rights of the citizens to exchange information, have access to information, in this case was seriously hampered."

The U.N. human rights office says the government broke a number of its obligations under international humanitarian law throughout the election process. These include encroaching on people's rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, the use of unnecessary force by police, and the arrest of people without informing them of the charges.

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