US envoy to Uganda says Thursday's vote will lack accountability and transparency, while Kampala hits back saying it couldn't remember when it last sent election monitors to US.
The United States has cancelled its observation of Uganda's presidential election because most of its accreditation requests were denied and said Thursday's vote would lack accountability and transparency.
Uganda hit back, saying African Union and East African Community observers have been deployed and that it couldn't remember when Uganda last sent election monitors to the US.
"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," the US embassy in Uganda said in a statement tweeted by its envoy on Wednesday.
Ambassador Natalie E. Brown expressed "profound disappointment" saying more than 75 percent of the accreditations requested had been denied.
The announcement adds to a growing chorus of concern over the credibility of the election pitting Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, against 10 candidates including opposition frontrunner Bobi Wine, a popular singer.
Govt says AU observers are deployed
Uganda's government has repeatedly said that foreigners are working in support of the opposition.
Museveni's spokesman Don Wanyama said the African Union and East African Community would deploy observers and he couldn't remember when Uganda last sent monitors to the US.
In a television address on Tuesday, Museveni dismissed interference by foreign partners saying they didn't understand that Uganda's strength came from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), the army, and the economy.
"We, therefore, don't need lectures about anything from anybody. Because there's nothing we don't know," said Museveni, wearing a military camouflage jacket.
Sadly, I announce 🇺🇸 decision not to observe #Uganda’s elections due to @UgandaEC’s decision to deny more than 75% of our accreditation requests (see https://t.co/QmNqFHQFmg). A robust contingent of observers, including local entities, promotes transparency & accountability. pic.twitter.com/66nV9M52mU— U.S. Ambassador to Uganda (@USAmbUganda) January 13, 2021
While previous elections have been marred by crackdowns on the opposition, campaigning this time has been particularly violent.
Scores of people have been killed and opposition candidates, supporters, and campaign staff have been repeatedly arrested and intimidated.
The European Union said on Tuesday that the electoral process had been seriously tarnished by the excessive use of force and its offer to deploy a small team of electoral experts was not taken up.
A coalition representing hundreds of Ugandan civil society organisations said on Wednesday that it had filed 1,900 accreditation requests but only 10 had been granted.
Voting shall be by universal adult suffrage, and shall take place at all the 34,684 polling stations across the country, beginning at 7:00am till 4:00pm.— Electoral Commission- Uganda (@UgandaEC) January 13, 2021
More than a dozen European countries, Britain, Canada and the US expressed their concern on Tuesday about media freedom and the harassment of reporters ahead of the vote.
Reporters covering opposition protests have been attacked by the security forces.
Last week, police chief Martin Okoth Ochola said reporters would be beaten for their own good, to stop them going to places where their lives might be at risk.
"It's hard to say there wont be violence," said a senior EU diplomat. "Every bit of the security apparatus will be on the streets. Theoretically that brings calm, but I think we know that just brings flashpoints."
Social media ban
Uganda also banned all social media platforms and messaging apps on Tuesday until further notice.
Museveni apologised for the inconvenience but said Uganda had no choice after Facebook took down some accounts which backed his ruling party.
In what analysts called a display of force amounting to preventative intimidation, a convoy of armoured military vehicles rolled through predominantly opposition areas of the capital Kampala on Tuesday.
"The systematic attempt to stop free information, to intimidate voters, and to harass opposition candidates means that this is no longer a credible election," said Nic Cheeseman, a professor of democracy at Birmingham University.
The country has never seen a peaceful transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1962.
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, is one the first opposition politicians to channel the grievances of young people into a viable challenge and this has rattled the NRM, analysts say.
The election will commence on Thursday morning and polling will close on the same day in the afternoon.
The results will be announced within 48 hours of polls closing, Uganda Justice Simon Byabakama said.