NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 13 – With the growing concerns over the credibility of Thursday’s elections in Uganda, the US Embassy in the country issued a statement on Wednesday saying it would not observe the elections after a majority of US observers were denied accreditation.
In a statement, Ambassador Natalie Brown said she made the decision after the Electoral Commission of Uganda failed to accredit more than 75 per cent of the US election observers.
With only 15 accreditations approved, she said it will not be possible for the United States to meaningfully observe the conduct of Uganda’s elections at polling sites across the country.
“Despite multiple requests, the Electoral Commission provided no explanation for its decision, which it communicated merely days before the elections. The purpose of a diplomatic observation of elections is to demonstrate our interest in a free, fair, peaceful, and inclusive electoral process. Diplomatic observers are not participants or advisors in the electoral process,” she said in a statement.
“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 U.S. 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 Ambassador also raised concerns over reports that several other diplomatic missions and right groups have suffered a similar fate.
At least some 18 million Ugandans will participate in the election.
The presidential contest will see the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni face 10 candidates including his fierce competitor, musician cum politician Bobi Wine.
The campaign period was marred by violence and police killings, mostly in the opposition areas.
“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,” Ambassador Brown lamented.
“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.”
Uganda has since ordered internet service providers to block all social media platforms and messaging apps until further notice.