Kerry: Uganda’s 2006 Elections “Marred�

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[International News]

Uganda’s 2006 Presidential election was marred with violence and intimidation, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry said in a letter to George Bush on the eve of his meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri K. Museveni in the White House today.

The United States policy is to support democracy globally and the Senator asked President Bush in his letter dated October 29, to raise “certain issues related to President  Museveni’s 2006 reelection.” Senator Kerry, a past Presidential candidate, narrowly lost to Bush in the last US election. 

“I understand you will be discussing a number of important subjects with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni during tomorrow’s meeting, including the escalating conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo,” Kerry’s letter says. “I also urge you to take this opportunity to raise certain issues related to President  Museveni’s 2006 reelection.” 

“Specifically, the first multi-party election in over twenty-five years, held in February 2006, was reportedly marred by intimidation, various voting irregularities, and a show of force by the government,” The Kerry letters adds. “The main opposition candidate was harassed and put on trial. Regrettably, these events came on the heels of President Museveni pressuring the Ugandan parliament to lift the Constitution’s two-term limit on the presidency. Breaking his express promise to abide by the terms of the Constitution allowed President Museveni to seek reelection for a third time in 2006.” 

Uganda's leading opposition Presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye, who heads the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), was arrested shortly before the election and charged with treason, on what many believe were trumped up charges. He was released shortly before the vote but was repeatedly harassed, followed by government agents and required to repeatedly report to court. He is now out on bail and his passport has been confiscated by the Uganda government.

Kerry’s letter concludes: “Given our strong interest in promoting democracy in Uganda and elsewhere around the world, I hope you take this opportunity both to ask President Museveni to reaffirm his commitment to the rule of law and to understand the steps he has taken since 2006 towards this end.” 

A call to Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi E. Frazer, was referred by a spokesperson to the press office which declined comment and in turn referred the call to The White House. A spokesperson at Uganda's embassy in Washington, D.C., did not return a call by press time. 

Speaking from Uganda in a telephone interview with The Black Star News today Dr. Bisegye welcomed Senator Kerry’s letter to Bush. He noted that Uganda’s Constitution and the presidential term limit had been unanimously approved by a Constituent Assembly and that citizens from all over the East African country had provided their opinion during its writing. Dr. Besigye said
the Constitutional amendment was "fraudulent" and called Museveni's government "illegitimate."

He called on the Bush Administration not to trade democratic principles for “short term gains,” such as Uganda’s participation in a Somali stabilization force. Uganda was the only African country to respond to US requests to African countries to send troops to Somalia after Ethiopia with U.S. assistance deposed the Islamic Courts government in Mogadishu. Major African powers such as Nigeria and South Africa, wary of being seen as U.S. proxies have declined participation.

“There is no way you can fight and win a war on terror, which the Americans are now focused on, without attending to the fundamentals of democratic governance,” Dr. Besigye said. “Corrupt and undemocratic regimes like ours are safe havens for terrorists.”

The FDC chief spoke about lawlessness in the country and said many of his colleagues remain under detention and that the judicial system remains under attack. “The armed forces have directly attacked the courts,” he  said. “The High Court was attacked in March of this year—this led to a nationwide strike of all the judicial officers, which was unprecedented in our nation’s history.”

“Detention of political opponents is on the rise—many of our colleagues are still languishing in prison. I cannot travel because my passport is being held by the court,” he added.

It was sad that Uganda's presidents have come to power "following bombs" and have left "following bombs," he said, adding that last year's election would have presented the first opportunity for an orderly and peaceful transfer of power.

Other critics of the Ugandan ruler have argued that he never should have been accorded a White House visit because of Uganda’s abysmal human rights, and the fact that its army and allied militias are being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity during its occupation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri region from 1998-2005.

These critics contend that since Charles Taylor was indicted by the ICC for similar atrocities in Sierra Leone and is now being tried at the Hague, Ugandan officers, including Museveni, who is a Lt. General, could be indicted.

“Given the record of human rights abuse, the upcoming meeting should be focused on ending the long-standing genocide and disregard for human rights within Uganda,” an organization called XposeUgandagenocide comprised of Ugandans and American citizens says on its blogpage,

The group’s statement also reads: “Pres. Museveni claims to be committed to democracy and human rights. Throughout his regime, he has instead engaged in directed hate-campaigns against certain ethnic groups, the forced displacement of Ugandan citizens into miserable camps and the failure to provide needed assistance for their resettlement. The U.S. continues to provide large amounts of financial assistance to Uganda, without insisting on full accountability for the use of funds. Adherence to human rights principles and full accountability for the use of funds should be minimum requirements for any future foreign aid from the U.S.”


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