US slaps sanctions against Ugandan officials over 2021 elections

The sanctions come two weeks after the US State Department published its 2020 Human Rights report for Uganda in which it listed President Yoweri Museveni, the police, army and Local Defence Unit (LDU) among other government institutions in rights violations ahead of the 2021 general elections.

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Bobi Wine with Mathias Mpuuga sandwiched by military personnel in Kalangala district on December 30, 2020

After months of threats and warnings against the Ugandan government over the violence that marred this year’s general elections, the United States of America (USA) has announced travel restrictions against unnamed government officials.

The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, in a statement on Friday, announced visa restrictions on government officials “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda.”

“The Government of Uganda’s actions represent a continued downward trajectory for the country’s democracy and respect for human rights as recognized and protected by Uganda’s constitution. Opposition candidates were routinely harassed, arrested, and held illegally without charge. Ugandan security forces were responsible for the deaths and injuries of dozens of innocent bystanders and opposition supporters, as well as violence against journalists that occurred before, during, and after the elections,” Blinken said.

Blinken’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo was the first to threaten targeted sanctions against Ugandan officials last November following the killing of at least 54 people during protests that broke out following the arrest of former National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi while campaigning in Luuka district, eastern Uganda.

The opposition political party has continued to accuse the government of kidnapping its supporters some of whom have died from torture injuries. Others are still under trial by the military court over what the NUP leadership calls politically motivated charges.

The sanctions come two weeks after the US State Department published its 2020 Human Rights report for Uganda in which it listed President Yoweri Museveni, the police, army and Local Defence Unit (LDU) among other government institutions in rights violations ahead of the 2021 general elections.

Read more: US report pins Museveni, security forces on rights violations

Besides the electoral violence and human rights violations, the US is punishing the government for its crackdown on civil society organisations ahead of the elections.

“Civil society organizations and activists working to support electoral institutions and transparent electoral processes have been targeted with harassment, intimidation, arrest, deportation, and spurious legal charges and denial of bank account access,” Blinken stated. 

“The government limited accreditation for international and local election observers and civil society, but those who were able to observe the process noted widespread irregularities before, during, and after the election, which have undermined its credibility. This electoral process was neither free nor fair. Nevertheless, we continue to urge all parties to renounce violence and respect freedoms of expression, assembly, and movement,” he added.

He urged the Ugandan government to “significantly improve its record and hold accountable those responsible for flawed election conduct, violence, and intimidation.”

Blinken warned that the U.S. government will continue to evaluate additional actions against individuals complicit in undermining democracy and human rights in Uganda, as well as their immediate family members.

Read full statement.

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