INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY: Don’t Recognize Museveni’s Rigged Uganda Elections & Stop Weapons
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY: Don’t Recognize Museveni’s Rigged Uganda Elections & Stop Weapons
President Joe Biden’s administration and its European partners (U.K. and EU) must not recognize the results as announced by Gen. Yoweri Museveni's hand-picked Election "Commission" of the January 14, 2021 presidential election in Uganda described by then U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Tibor Nagy, as “fundamentally flawed.” Moreover, the African Union, which routinely endorses elections in African countries, told Al Jazeera that the organization couldn't determine whether the election was free or fair.
The U.S., provides Uganda with about $1 billion in annual financial and military assistance. The Biden administration must suspend ALL military aid, joint military exercises and training, as well as non-essential assistance until the election impasse is resolved. American taxpayers must not finance dictatorship in Uganda as The Washington Post pointed out in an editorial.
On January 16 Uganda’s Election “Commission” (EC) announced that the country’s dictator of 35 years Gen. Yoweri Museveni had “won” with 59%. The EC itself is hand-picked by the candidate and incumbent himself, Gen. Museveni.
The main Challenger, Bobi Wine, is the actual winner of the election. He was awarded 34% of the vote by the Museveni hand-picked “Commission.” Museveni had rejected a recommendation by the European Union (EU) that an independent Election Commission be created. This was one of the more than 30 recommendations the EU made after its team observed the 2016 elections. The 2016 observation mission also documented atrocities by the regime in its final report. As a result, the EU did not send a team for the 2021 vote. A smaller EU monitoring team was rejected by Gen. Museveni's regime.
Bobi Wine and his National Unity Platform (NUP) say they have evidence, including video recordings, to prove massive cheating, such as ballot stuffing, and soldiers handing pre-ticked ballots to people, many of whom voted under duress. Bobi Wine had petitioned the Ugandan Supreme Court challenging the "victory" awarded to Gen. Museveni and seeking nullification of the election. When the Court rejected his motion to amend the petition and file additional evidence proving election rigging, Bobi Wine withdrew his petition. He also denounced the cozy relations between Gen. Museveni and justices of the Supreme Court including the dictator's recent meetings with Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo, and alleged there was a quid pro quo in the works.
As part of Gen. Museveni’s well-coordinated scheme to engineer “victory” for himself, he shut down the entire country’s Internet connection and social media access on January 12, two days before the election.
This meant independent poll watchers could not transmit information, including the true and accurate figures from the declaration forms signed by agents of each of the presidential candidates. On the other hand, it means that the Electoral Commission (EC) was also affected by the Internet shutdown and could not have received data from polling stations—this confirms that the figures “awarded” to the candidates, including Gen. Museveni, by the EC could not have come from the declaration forms, and were cooked up numbers. Bobi Wine has called for an independent international forensic audit which he says will confirm his victory in the Ugandan presidential election.
Immediately after he'd cast his vote, Bobi Wine and his wife Barbie were unlawfully placed under house arrest in their home in Kampala with about 500 soldiers, and 10 armored vehicles, surrounding their compound. The couple ran out of food and water at one point. Soldiers prevented them from leaving the premise and no one was allowed to enter. When a Ugandan member of Parliament, Francis Zaake, tried to visit Bobi Wine to deliver food, he was severely beaten by soldiers and was hospitalized in critical condition. A helicopter flew over their home every 30 minutes, and a drone hovered around the compound. When U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Natalie E. Brown tried visiting Bobi Wine, she too was blocked by the military at the gate. Due to domestic and international pressure, a court ordered that the military siege be lifted and days later the regime complied. Bobi Wine remains under heavy military surveillance.
In reality, the entire electoral process in Uganda was undermined long before the January 14 vote due to regime violence throughout the entire period. Here are some instances:
1. On November 18, after Bobi Wine was arrested while campaigning, protests erupted throughout the country. State security agents under Gen. Museveni’s orders massacred at least 54 unarmed civilians with live rounds. Bobi Wine provided extensive documentation of the abuses in a complaint filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bobi Wine’s ICC complaint identifies people that have “affirmatively incited violence” as: Gen. Museveni, Gen. Elly Tumwine (Security Minister), and Col. Felix Obucha.
2. Despite strong condemnation of the killings by the international community, including a statement by the State Department that the U.S. would not hesitate to consider “serious” consequences, violent attacks continued, including against journalists covering Bobi Wine’s campaign--they were beaten on numerous occasions, and also fired at by the armed forces. Museveni’s police commander, Martin Okoth Ochola, said the reporters were being beaten “for their own good”—to dissuade them from traveling to dangerous locations. Ochola is a good candidate for an ICC investigation.
3. As part of the regime’s agenda to control the election outcome, thousands of domestic election observers, and some international ones, were denied accreditation. The Election Commission rejected 75% of the accreditation request made by the American embassy in Uganda, so U.S. Ambassador Natalie E. Brown pulled out of the monitoring process.
This was Gen. Museveni’s intention all along—so that his regime could rig the election with impunity.
4. More anecdotal evidence indicate that the numbers were cooked up. The Daily Monitor, Uganda’s leading independent newspaper published an article on Jan. 16, raising doubt about the validity of the Election “Commission’s” data. The paper noted that by Friday, Gen. Museveni had been awarded a total of 4,470,000 votes. Yet, the paper noted, when additional votes supposedly arrived from the polling centers and candidates awarded more votes, Museveni’s new total was 4,340,134. In other words, instead of increasing, Gen. Museveni’s total raw count declined by 129,866.
This should be of no surprise if, as Bobi Wine alleges, the numbers were indeed being cooked up. When other media, including Black Star News, wrote about the smoking gun evidence in The Daily Monitor article, the story was deleted from the newspaper’s website. The newspaper has a history of deleting articles that expose corruption, under pressure from the regime.
5. Since the end of the election period, on January 15, soldiers have been arresting Bobi Wine’s associates and staff, and many are now in hiding. There are reports that polling agents have been arrested and that some have been killed. The regime is trying to get a hold of the polling agents’ cell phones in order to destroy the recorded images of the election declaration forms that reflect the actual vote totals from polling stations. Many people believe part of the reason why the regime shut down the Internet was to create time to confiscate and destroy all the images of the declaration forms independently photographed.
In recent weeks, the regime has escalated its reign of terror and hundreds of Ugandans have been kidnapped. Abandoned bodies are being discovered throughout the country--thousands of people are reported missing. Some victims have been gruesomely tortured--beatings, electric shocks, water boarding, removal of toe nails and people's hair with pliers, burnings with cigarettes--and then dumped in mortuaries or near hospitals.
Bobi Wine has reported that about 3,000 of his supporters and associates were unlawfully detained prior to, and after the January 14 vote.
The families of victims continue to flock to Bobi Wine’s home to appeal for help. On February 17, when Bobi Wine went to the Ugandan offices of the United Nations Human Rights Council to file a complaint and information about the reign of terror and kidnappings, journalists accompanying him were attacked and brutally beaten in broad daylight. The armed forces are apparently following the shoot to kill orders by Gen. Tumwine and the command to attack journalists by Police commander Ochola. The UN has demanded an investigation of the assault.
Ugandans are not holding their breath. The regime crimes continue. Moreover, the regime has yet to investigate numerous past atrocities, including the 2016 Kasese massacre of more than 100 people including women and children, or the violent 2018 attack against Bobi Wine and other Members of Parliament and their supporters--and their subsequent arrest and torture. Calls by Human Rights Watch and the EU for the regime to investigate those crimes were ignored and Gen. Museveni boasted in an Al Jazeera interview that he issued the order for the Kasese attack.
Ugandans are heartened that the International Community are paying closer attention to Gen. Museveni's crimes. On February 11, 2021, the EU Parliament after a debate voted overwhelmingly 695 to 15 (with 48 abstentions) to condemn the atrocities by the Museveni regime and recommend that members apply global Magnitsky Act sanctions.
For all of the above reasons, in addition to actions already initiated by the EU, we demand that the International Community:
1. Suspend military and non-essential aid to the Museveni regime.
2. Not recognize the “results” of the January 14, 2021 election which has already been rejected as “fundamentally flawed.”
3. Support Bobi Wine’s call for an independent international forensic audit.
4. Support the demand made by Sen. Bob Menendez, and Rep. Eliot Engel in the 116th Congress, that the U.S. initiate targeted sanctions against military officers and political leaders involved in planning, sanctioning, or carrying out human rights abuses.
Following pre-election violence, Senator Menendez in a resolution last year recommended strong action against regime abuses, and also issued a critical statement after the January 14 rigged elections.
Sanctions must include, but not be limited to applying the global Magnitsky Act, which authorizes the U.S. government to sanction human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the United States. In Uganda, in addition to Gen. Museveni, Gen. Tumwine, Police Commander Ochola, and Col. Obucha, others that should be sanctioned are: Gen. Peter Elwelu and Museveni's son Gen. Muhoozi Kaenerugaba, who commands the notorious Special Forces Command which has been involved in many of the atrocities and the killing of civilians.
5. Block any other financing from the World Bank and IMF until Constitutional rule is restored to prevent millions of dollars from being embezzled or diverted for military repression. A $300 million loan from the World Bank to combat the Covid-19 pandemic was reportedly diverted to Uganda’s repressive military.