NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 13 – Four human rights defenders were arrested on Wednesday shortly before they could release a statement condemning police excesses in Uganda ahead of Thursday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
Haki Africa Executive Director Hussain Khalid, Beatrice Waithera, Yassah Musa and Ojiro Odhiambo were arrested outside Uganda house, which hosts the Ugandan Embassy.
The four were to Central Police Station according to right groups Amnesty International and ICJ-Kenya. It was not immediately clear what charges they faced.
Journalists had already arrived for the event when a contingent of police officers arrived and bundled the activists into a waiting a vehicle.
“We demand the release of the four human rights defenders arrested outside the Ugandan Embassy for speaking against injustices in Uganda and demanding for a free and fair election. Freedom of assembly is a right! #UgandaDecides2021,” ICJ-Kenya tweeted following the arrests.
Other right groups under a campaign tagged #MissingVoiceKE said, “the four were arrested for standing up against #PoliceBrutality and other human rights violations in Uganda.”
The human rights organizations all called for their immediate release.
At estimated 18 million Ugandans will participate in Thursday’s election that has attracted 10 candidates among them cum politician Bobi Wine, all vying against incumbent President Yoweri Museveni who has ruled for three decades.
The electioneering period was marred by violence and police killings.
On Tuesday, Uganda banned social media platforms while security in the capital Kampala was beefed up.
United States Mission in Uganda has since declared it will not provide “diplomatic observation of Uganda’s January 14 elections due to the decision by the Electoral Commission of Uganda to deny more than 75 percent of the U.S. election observer accreditations requested.”
In a statement, U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Natalie Brown said, “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.”
“Absent the robust participation of observers, particularly Ugandan observers who are answerable to their fellow citizens, Uganda’s elections 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 added.