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HRW: Uganda Security Forces Must Protect Freedom of Assembly

FILE - A supporter of Uganda's former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi wrestles with the gun of a policeman, as riot police disperse a gathering in Jinja town in eastern Uganda, Sep. 10, 2015.

Human Rights Watch is calling on Uganda to publicly state that security forces are legally obliged to protect freedom of assembly and the right to peaceful protest in the days leading up to the nation's February 18 election.

The U.S.-based rights group made the statement Wednesday, saying there has been a troubling rise in "implied and explicit threats" against anyone who might protest President Yoweri Museveni winning another term in office.

It said that recently one ruling party official, Kasule Lumumba, was recorded telling people in the local language of Luganda, that if people protest election results, the state "will kill your children."

Human rights groups have documented cases of children being shot to death by security forces during public demonstrations in Uganda, including a two-year-old in 2011 and a 13-year old in 2009.

President Museveni has held his office for the past 30 years and is running this year for another five-year term in office. Museveni did not attend the first political debate preceding the February 18 vote, and it is unclear whether he will attend the second and final debate, scheduled for February 13.

Critics say the first debate did not meet expectations because Museveni was not there to answer pointed questions, including why he wants another mandate after being in power so long.