Kukan shown with Kiggundu

GULU, Uganda--Civil society organizations in Uganda, under their umbrella organization called “The Uganda National NGO Forum”, have released a statement calling on Ugandans to reject violence during the campaigns for the February 18, 2016 polls.

The statement titled “Uganda at Crossroads! Recreating Opportunity amidst Threats to a Peaceful and prosperous Uganda” says the time is now for all Ugandans to “reject violence and stand up for a peaceful elections”.

“At the outset we would like to note that as a country, we are at crossroads as we prepare for the general elections of February 2016…The time is now for all of us to reject violence and stand up for a peaceful elections”, the statement reads in parts.

In a related development, a team of 94 European Union Election Observers have already arrived in Uganda to observe presidential, parliamentary and local council elections. This is the third time that EU is involved in observing elections in Uganda, having observed the 2006 and 2011 elections.

The Chief Observer, Mr. Eduard Kukan, former minister of foreign affairs of Slovakia, told local media that they will provide independent and impartial assessments within 48 hours after elections. In addition to meeting president Yoweri Museveni, Kukan also met with Badru Kiggundu, chairman of the Electoral Commission hand-picked by Museveni.

The year 2015 and the start of 2016 have been dominated by cases of violence at rallies, violence at party primary elections, voter bribery and several incidents of brutality.

“For our elections to start looking like a do-or die affair is an extreme act of constitutional abuse and relegation of the rule of law”, the statement by the Ugandan NGOs says in parts.

On December 17, 2015, Ugandan woke up to a rude shock of the disappearance of Mr. Christopher Aine. He was in the security team of Independent Presidential candidate John Patrick Amama Mbabazi. Police accused him of having been the man behind the scuffle with some youths belonging to the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party who had gone to disrupt Mbabazi’s campaign rally in Ntungamo in Western Uganda a week earlier.

Some NRM youths were reportedly injured during the scuffle and it attracted the attention of President Museveni who warned that those who beat up his supporters had put their “hands in the anus of the leopard”, presumably a reference to himself having been provoked.

Police published Aine’s photograph in the media and offered a reward of 20 million shillings to anyone who can lead police to his arrest. This reward is the first of its kind in the history of Uganda’s assault offence cases.

Some critics believe the posted reward was a ruse to confuse the public and absolve the government and that the police knew by that time that Aine had been harmed while in custody.

Family and witnesses say he was arrested by plain clothed security officials and is believed to have been killed and buried in an unmarked grave after a photo of a dead body bearing resembling to Aine was published in the RedPepper, a Ugandan tabloid. Police say Aine is alive and is in hiding.

Aine’s family says they are over stressed and confused as to the whereabouts of their son. They are considering hiring private investigators from abroad to come and investigate so as to come out with clear reports on whether he is alive or dead.

“As a family, we are stressed and confused. We want Aine dead or alive. If he is dead, let the police give us our own and we burry him. When the photo of Aine was published, police said he is still alive and this, therefore, shows that they know where he is”, his paternal uncle, Duncan Muramuzi said.

In its editorial of January 12, 2016, the state-owned New Vision newspaper says this kind of back and forth accusations raise tension which can spark violence that can quickly spiral out of control with consequences.

The man who took the photo to the RedPepper tabloid, Charles Rwomushana, was himself arrested on Friday January 11, 2016. Rwomushana was a former Internal Security Organization (ISO) intelligence operative.

It’s in the context of these election-related issues that the civil society statement has been released.

“As civil society organizations, we condemn in the strongest terms the ongoing instances of violence in elections. We want to urge all parties to ensure that they discourage violence, disband vigilante groups and promote the exercise of peaceful elections”, the release says.

The group also laments over transition failures from a nature-based economy inherited at independence to a science driven economy based on credible research and informed policy options. It says the transition towards an industrial, services and a knowledge based economy is incomplete.

“We urge that 2016 becomes the year when Uganda discusses the questions related to transition in a sober and responsible way that aims to build a secure future for this generation and generations to come”, the statement says.

The civil society organizations also condemned the endemic corruption which threatens our democracy and undermines economic development.

“Corruption is stifling development and is a potential source of conflict and political instability…Uganda has been consistently listed among the fifty most corrupt countries in the world under Transparency International Corruption Perception Index”.


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