News & Analysis Blog Posts
- The elections were preceded by robust campaigns by candidates across the nation;
- The people of Uganda were enthusiastic about exercising their democratic right and indeed, there was a reasonable voter turnout;
- The Electoral Commission deployed human and material resources to Polling Stations in all the regions, and
- Voting was conducted in a generally peaceful and orderly manner compared to previous elections;
- Counting of votes at Polling Stations was done in full view of the voting populace and other stakeholders;
However, there were several shortcomings:
- Many Polling Stations did not receive voting materials on time, therefore, voting did not start at 7AM as stipulated in the Electoral Law;
- Many voters with voters’ cards were turned away from Polling Stations because their names could not be found on the Voters’ Register;
- A good number of Polling officials did not seem to have adequate training or confidence to perform their responsibilities and as a result procedures were not properly followed;
- The elderly, people with disabilities, expectant mothers and mothers with children were not given priority during the voting process as specified in the Electoral Law;
- Voters’ comprehension of the voting procedure was inadequate, especially in the rural areas;
- The open air setting, the marking of ballot paper in an open bowl as against an enclosure and the exposure of ballot boxes without appropriate lids and seals in some cases opened the materials to the vagaries of the weather and limited the secrecy of the voter;
- The deployment of the armed forces, the police and militias for security was intimidating and could have impacted negatively on the process of the election;
- The general dissatisfaction expressed by different stakeholders on the composition of the Electoral Commission of Uganda undermined the credibility of the process;
- The use of inflammatory language by politicians created unnecessary tension and fear;
- The national electronic and print media fell short of living up to its responsibility of providing access and level playing field to all contesting parties, and
- Allegations of vote buying and open material promises to electorates have undermined the integrity of the electoral process;
Last November Africa-watchers across the country applauded President Obama’s release of the first-ever comprehensive US strategy to help stop the violence perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and assist affected communities in rebuilding.
“They handcuffed me and beat me with a [glass] Coke bottle. They beat my friend too. They hit him in the ears a lot. As they were talking they would slap me, saying “tell us where the gun is,” hitting me in the ankles, face, ears and elbows. We went to the RRU office. They took my money from me – about 70,000 shillings [about US$30]. They took us back to our home – searched the house and started torturing me again.”
– Ugandan man testifying about his time in the custody of Ugandan police Rapid Response Unit
Our friends at Human Rights Watch released a report yesterday documenting how the Ugandan police Rapid Response Unit (RRU) frequently operates outside the law by carrying out torture, extortion, and in some cases, extrajudicial killings. Human Rights Watch called for Ugandan authorities to urgently open an independent investigation into the unit’s conduct and activities and hold accountable anyone responsible for human rights violations.
We’ve talked about Congo often this week. And we weren’t the only ones…
On Tuesday, March 9, the House Africa subcommittee convened a hearing about the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo). The panel of experts who spoke to the subcommittee included the actor Ben Affleck (founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative);Donald Yamamoto, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; USAID’s Rajakumari Jandhyala, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa; and the Enough Project’s John Prendergast.
Three members of the Resolve team attended the hearing and watched as both the panelists and members of Congress condemned the detrimental affect the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is having on northern Congo, and discussed the steps the Obama administration is taking — or needs to take in the future — to help improve security for people living in LRA-affected regions. (more…)
March 10 update: The latest reports have confirmed that six Congolese (FARDC) soldiers were killed during the Bamangana attack on February 24, and that another four soldiers were killed near Bamangana in the week before that attack.
As we wrote last week, LRA attacks in northern Congo are on the rise. But there’s more to the story than just that. Here are some of the trends and patterns we’re seeing with LRA violence in Congo so far this year, based on reports from civil society groups, the UN and international aid organizations working on the ground. (more…)
Implementing the LRA Strategy: “no support or safe-haven”
by Representative Ed Royce
Readers know that the Obama administration’s strategy to confront the Lord’s Resistance Army talks about ensuring that the “LRA receives no support or safe-haven.” But how to do that?
Today, Congressman Jim McGovern and I introduced legislation to ensure the LRA’s outside support is drained. With your help, the two of us led last year’s strategy effort successfully through the House.
The bill we introduced is called the “Sudan Cessation of Support for the Lord’s Resistance Army Certification Act of 2011.” A mouthful, I know. It is H.R. 895.
The legislation requires the Administration to certify to Congress that the Sudanese government is “no longer engaged in training, harboring, supplying, financing, or supporting in any way the Lord’s Resistance Army, its leader Joseph Kony, or his top commanders” before Sudan could be removed from the State Department’s state sponsor of terrorism list.
Remember, Sudan has been the only documented state-supporter of the LRA, backing it with arms and supplies for a decade. According to a U.N. report released a few months ago, LRA commanders recently reached out to Sudan’s military in Darfur for support, literally exchanging phone numbers. And former LRA abductees testify that Kony himself said he wanted to reestablish ties with Sudan’s government.
I’ve raised these concerns with the Administration several times, most recently in January. They say Sudan won’t come off the list if it’s still working with the LRA. This legislation is our way to keep their feet to the fire, and make sure its “no support or safe-haven” strategy is implemented.
I raised Kony and the LRA at a public hearing with Secretary of State Clinton earlier this week. I need you to raise H.R. 895 with your member of Congress, asking them to cosponsor this important bill.
Time is of the essence. The Obama Administration has started the process to take Sudan off the terrorism list as part of that country’s peace process. Let’s ensure that Sudan’s links with the LRA are truly history. And together, let’s stop Joseph Kony!
Rep. Ed Royce (CA-40) is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
On February 20, 2011, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner in his fifth presidential bid. This was the second election since the restoration of multi-party democracy in Uganda, but all six opposition candidates protested the results that were reported by the country’s official electoral commission.
The opposition, led by Dr. Kizza Besigye, who came in second in the election with an official tally of 26 percent of the vote, said throughout the campaign that a skewed voter registry and partisan electoral commission made the vote “fundamentally flawed.” Besigye produced a list of complaints – from rampant voter bribery, to ballot stuffing and military intimidation – that he said proved the elections had been systematically rigged. The Ugandan electoral commission denied the allegation.
Check out below reports and statements about the elections from the African Union, European Union and US – many of which echo concerns voiced by the opposition.
Four of the six opposition candidates, including Dr. Besigye, encouraged Ugandans to participate in countrywide peaceful demonstrations to force Museveni out of office. So far, all remains calm in Uganda, but there is widespread discontent at the prospect of President Museveni adding another five years to the 25 he’s already been in power.
The African Union’s Election Observer Mission to Uganda’s preliminary statement regarding the election seemed to support some of the opposition candidates’ claims. As noted in their statement:
The AU Observer Mission was deployed to all regions of Uganda and observed the following:
The response of the European Union election observers was similar to that of the African Union. They added, “The Electoral Commission has declared results, but the electoral process itself continues until any appeals have been duly considered by the competent authorities in Uganda. I encourage any challenges to the results to be pursued through these channels, and encourage all those elected to the new parliament to engage constructively to promote sustainable development, good governance and respect for human rights.″
The United States department of State responded to the election by saying, “The United States applauds the people of Uganda for their participation in the February 18 presidential and parliamentary elections and congratulates President Yoweri Museveni on his reelection. The elections and campaign period were generally peaceful, but we note with concern the diversion of government resources for partisan campaigning and the heavy deployment of security forces on election day. We are also disappointed by the disorganization at polling stations and the absence of many registered voters’ names from the voter rolls, irregularities that could have been avoided by appointing an independent and more representative Electoral Commission.”
We recently learned of two attacks allegedly perpetrated by the LRA in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo). Both attacks occurred last Thursday, February 24, in communities less than 25 miles apart. These attacks, if confirmed, are representative of an increase in violence perpetrated by the LRA in January and February.
Reports from the first attack, on the small village of Bamngana in Bas Uele district, included unconfirmed information that 30 people were abducted, two civilians were killed, and six soldiers from the Congolese army were killed. Additionally, the reports indicated that the attacking rebels were very well-armed and announced that Joseph Kony was in the Congo and the LRA would attack the nearby village of Naparka next.
Multiple sources have reported that the LRA rebels did attack Naparka the next day, allegedly killing 10 Congolese soldiers along with three civilians. A local boy was left with a note from the LRA encouraging the Congolese army to stop following the LRA into the bush.
We learned of these attacks through civil society sources on the ground in Congo. The Naparka attack was also mentioned in a report from Radio Okapi, a radio news site sponsored by MONUSCO, the United Nation’s peacekeeping mission in Congo. And, just today, we read a press release from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees that mentions the increase in attacks.
While reports of violence by the LRA are always disturbing, these attacks come in a series of increased strikes by the rebel group. As the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported at the end of January, there has been a spike of LRA actions throughout Congo since the beginning of the year (full report in French).
Unfortunately, reports of LRA attacks in Congo are often not investigated by the UN or human rights groups for months, so we may not have a full picture of what happened during these incidents for some time. However, highlighting preliminary reports like the ones that we’ve received is crucial to ensuring that LRA activity does completely escape the international radar.
Also – check out this photo essay that appeared in Newsweek, with photos from Marcus Bleasdale and text by Joe Bavier. The hauntingly beautiful photos highlight the stories of those affected by the LRA throughout Congo and the Central African Republic.
We reported previously that the President included a specific line item to fund efforts to stop LRA atrocities in his recent budget proposal to Congress. This is a first, and a significant development. Securing this funding is absolutely critical if the White House strategy released last year is to translate into concrete progress for communities vulnerable to the LRA.
But as we have dug into the budget process, we are hearing more and more reports that Congress may cut these very funds. Because of the recession and budget deficit, it is a very tense environment in Washington as Members of Congress consider budget priorities. But cutting efforts to stop the LRA is simply not something we can allow.
Today, we launched a petition to prevent that from happening. Take 30 seconds to sign it now. People being targeted by the LRA don’t have a voice in Washington; so we have to use ours. We’ll be circulating the petition to leaders in Congress over the coming weeks.
This week, I joined leaders from humanitarian organizations in pleading for Congress not to cut emergency relief programs, and we’re not alone. Our partners at the ONE Campaign have also been vigilant on this issue (see this post on how it would impact HIV/AIDS work, and this one that explains the various budgets being considered) as these cuts would affect their work too. So have our friends at Save Darfur.
This may prove to be a major battle in our efforts for peace moving forward.
This past week, President Obama released his budget proposal for the coming year. It will now be considered, amended, and voted on by Congress. Remarkably (and we think for the first time ever), the President’s budget request includes a specific line item for our country’s efforts to end the ongoing atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
In the midst of news of the popular revolutions for greater democracy coming from North Africa and the Middle East, news about upcoming elections in Uganda has flown under the radar. Voting is scheduled for February 18, but recent preparations for the elections have been marred by restrictions on media freedoms and harassment of opposition political parties, raising concerns that the elections will not be free or fair and could lead to civil unrest and destabilize the country.
Given the enormous implications that the elections have on the stability and future of democracy in Uganda, senior US officials such as Secretary Clinton needs to be personally engaged in trying to ensure that the voting is conducted freely and fairly and that all political candidates and parties respect the
outcomes of the elections. In particular, Secretary Clinton should ask that President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda publicly commit to “zero tolerance” of any vote rigging or intimidation of opposition parties and media and to respect the results of the election and step down from office should the Electoral Commission announce another winner.
US officials have spoken out about the need for free and fair elections in Uganda, more so than their predecessors in the Bush Administration did. But the Ugandan government has still been up to its usual tricks to tilt the playing field in favor of candidates from the ruling National Resistance Movement Party (NRM), including President Yower Museveni, who’s running to extend his 25-year grip on power.
Arguably, the Ugandan government hasn’t been as overt and violent in its intimidation of media and opposition parties as it was in 2001 and 2006 elections, but they’ve been just as effective in doing so. Peaceful opposition supporters have been arrested and jailed by the Ugandan government, as well as beaten by pro-government Kiboko (stick) squads that have operated without interference from police forces. Freedom of assembly has also been threatened by the Public Order Management Bill, legislation introduced in Uganda’s Parliament last year by members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), which would require prior police approval before groups of three or more individuals can gather to discuss “principles, policy, actions or failure of any government.” Media, especially local language radio stations that are the only way a vast majority of Ugandans living in rural areas get political news, have also been vulnerable to government intimidation.
The close alliance between the US and Uganda on regional security issues also raises concerns that the U.S. is reluctant to go beyond words and use its diplomatic influence to push for more robust democracy in Uganda. The U.S. provides support to Ugandan military forces deployed in Somalia as part of the African Union force there, as well as to Ugandan forces operating against Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in central Africa.
Recent events in Egypt, Tunisia and Cote d’Ivoire demonstrate clearly that stronger democracies are top priority for people across Africa, and should be a top priority for U.S. leaders as well. Secretary Clinton needs to make sure President Museveni gets that message loud and clear as Ugandans head to the polls this week.