With almost a week remaining until Uganda holds presidential elections, the US-based Human Rights Watch says the elections may not be free and fair. Jemera Rone is coordinator for East Africa at Human Rights Watch. She tells English to Africa reporter James Butty why her organization believes the vote may not be free and fair.
“One, there hasn’t been a level playing field during the campaign for the opposition basically to the one-party state to get its point across to the electorate. And number two, although there has been a lot of reform with the Electoral Commission and new laws, even with the best intention in the world, they have not been able to do everything that needs to be done to ensure that there’s not voter fraud and double registration and that all the polls are going to be guarded on election day by people who are truly independent.”
Rone dismissed claims by Ugandan information minister Nsaba Buturo that his government is committed to a free and fair electoral process in Uganda.
“Well, of course he’s going to reject them. What else can he say? He doesn’t want to admit any of the complaints. These complaints are being made inside Uganda to the Electoral Commission. They’ve been aired in the printed press in Uganda. But unfortunately, even with all the independence that the Electoral Commission and the judiciary have made, there’ve been so many other government activities that it’s really doubtful that people are not going to feel some kind of intimidation.”
Rone cites the continuing trial of opposition leader Kizza Besigye as one of the biggest, overarching, intimidating act by the Ugandan government: “This is very intimidating on local people who count on to go out and get the vote out, talk to their neighbors and so forth.”
Rone says Human Rights Watch hasn’t asked for the Ugandan elections to be canceled. But she says the group is warning that so far there has not been a level playing field, and that the possibility exists for irregularities on election day.