Uganda’s recently held elections “fell short of meeting key democratic benchmarks”. That is the verdict of the Chairman of the Commonwealth Observer Group which monitored the poll in that country, Olusegun Obsanjo.
The former Nigerian President told journalists in the Ugandan capital Kampala that whereas the presidential polls “were competitive with regard to the number of candidates, practical restrictions on basic freedoms of assembly and movement affected the fairness of the campaign for opposition candidates.”
Seven opposition candidates, including veteran opposition leader Kizza Besigye and former Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi contested the incumbent president, Yoweri Museveni.
But the main opposition leader Kizza Besigye was repeatedly arrested over the election period.
Olusegun Obasanjo in a statement said the “arrests over the past few days of some leaders of the opposition have been seen as unnecessary intimidation that could intensify tensions.”
In spite of the condemnation, Besigye was again arrested on Monday – a move justified by President Yoweri Museveni who said Besigye “wanted to cause violence”.
Social media sites including facebook and twitter as well as mobile money services were blocked on election day as Ugandan authorities claimed the opposition was using the mobile money service to bribe voters.
The Commonwealth Observer Group chair in his interim statement on the conduct of the polls however commended the commitment shown by voters despite what he described as “inexcusable” delays at many polling stations.
The interim statement also lauded Uganda’s Electoral Commission for adopting a national ID card as a tool for identification at the polling station and ensuring that no voter was disenfranchised.