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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 11, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 11
Ugandans charge rigged elections, picket country's London embassy
Section One
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Ugandans charge rigged elections, picket country's London embassy

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

'Not free. Not fair,' the picket sign said. Others read 'Recount now,' 'Sanction Museveni regime,' 'Britain: Don't recognise Museveni presidency,' 'UN: Speak out against Museveni's crimes in Uganda,' and 'Museveni! Stop suppressing peaceful protests.'

One hundred demonstrators - most of them Ugandan nationals - picketed their country's London embassy on March 9 to protest what they called 'February's fraudulent Ugandan presidential elections' and the subsequent 'violent repression of opposition leaders and civil society protests.'

The protest was supported by the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, Ugandan opposition movements the Forum for Democratic Change (UK) and the P10 (UK) Coalition, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Protestors charged that Yoweri Museveni, president of Uganda since 1986, had been re-elected to a fifth presidential term by intimidating the opposition and stuffing the ballot boxes.

Throughout the 2016 election campaign, the demonstrators said, tanks and armed commandos were deployed by the Ugandan government, and water cannons, tear gas, and live bullets were fired at unarmed opposition supporters and sympathizers.

Many opposition polling agents, volunteers, and supporters were reportedly rounded up by Museveni's agents and thrown into detention centers euphemistically known as 'safe houses.' Many were tortured, others have disappeared, and some have been murdered.

'On 18 February, Ugandans held presidential elections,' protest organizer Edwin Sesange, director of Out and Proud, said.

'There is strong evidence that these elections were not free and fair but manipulated to return to power the incumbent antidemocratic leader, Yoweri Museveni. The provisional results that were cited to declare Museveni as the winner do not match the results that were read out at many polling centers immediately after the election.

'These elections have been strongly criticized by the United Nations, European Union observers, the Commonwealth monitor team, Ugandan church leaders, the United States and Botswana governments, local election observers, and NGOs, as well as by Ugandan opposition candidates.

'We are very concerned that Museveni's return to power will lead to further state repression against civil society, including the LGBTI community.'

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell called Museveni 'the new Mugabe - a democrat turned tyrant who has clung on to power for 30 years using terror and fraud to sustain his misrule.'

'Uganda is a member of the Commonwealth, yet its government is systematically violating Commonwealth principles by rigging elections, shutting down social media, arresting opposition leaders and supporters, and beating peaceful protesters and journalists,' Tatchell charged.

'We stand in solidarity with the people of Uganda who defend democracy, human rights, and social justice.'

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