The United States embassy in Uganda has cancelled its diplomatic observation of the country’s General Election slated for Thursday, January 14, 2021, citing frustrations by the local electoral body.
In a statement on Wednesday, US Ambassador Natalie E. Brown said the Electoral Commission of Uganda had denied more than 75 per cent of the US election observer accreditations requested hence the move to boycott the exercise.
“With only 15 accreditations approved, it is not possible for the United States to meaningfully observe the conduct of Uganda’s elections at polling sites across the country, ” the statement reads.
Despite multiple requests, the embassy said, the Commission provided no explanation for its decision, which it communicated just days before the elections.
According to Ms Brown, the US Mission complied with all Electoral Commission accreditation requirements, just like in previous elections.
“The purpose of a diplomatic observation of elections is to demonstrate our interest in a free, fair, peaceful, and inclusive electoral process,” the ambassador said.
“Diplomatic observers are not participants or advisors in the electoral process. Rather, they informally observe the conduct of elections, following strict standards of impartiality, non-interference, and compliance with local laws.
“The Government of Uganda has supported such US observer efforts in multiple previous Ugandan elections. This makes the decision now to deny accreditation to all but a small, randomly selected handful of our observers all the more troubling.”
The commission is also accused of having denied other diplomatic missions and a large number of Ugandans a chance to observe the elections.
“Numerous civil society organizations planned to observe the elections, but many have not heard back from the Electoral Commission on their accreditation applications. Among those civil society organizations which already had organizational accreditation, the vast majority of their individual observers have not yet – two days ahead of elections – received accreditation badges, ” the ambassador added.
In the absence of election monitoring, Ms Brown said, tomorrow’s election will lack the accountability, transparency and confidence that observer missions provide.
“Uganda will also miss the opportunity to benefit from observers’ insights to improve and inform future elections,” she said.
The US Mission dispatched 88 diplomatic election observers during the 2016 elections.
President Yoweri Museveni’s government has been accused of frustrating the opposition led by Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine, who is seeking to unseat the president after 34 years in power.
The Member of Parliament for Kyadondo County East constituency is running for presidency on National Unity Platform (NUP) party ticket.
Museveni is 76 years old while Wine is aged 38.