Uganda Election Questioned by Human Rights Watch as Result Nears

  • Veteran Uganda leader Museveni leading in early vote count
  • Human-rights abuses were documented ahead of the election

Uganda’s handling of elections “raises serious questions” about whether they have been conducted in a free and fair manner, Human Rights Watch said, as early results from the vote indicated that President Yoweri Museveni is set to extend his three-decade rule.

In the run-up to the Thursday vote, barriers to freedom of expression, assembly and association and excessive use of force were documented, the New York-based advocacy group said in an e-mailed statement on Saturday from the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

Museveni, 71, who has ruled Africa’s biggest coffee exporter since 1986, was leading with 61 percent of the vote early in the count, the Electoral Commission said on its website. Main opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who was arrested twice in the past two days, was second with 35 percent, the commission said.

“The next few days will be critical, as people will surely scrutinize the election process,” Maria Burnett, HRW’s senior Africa researcher, said in the statement. “Security forces should respect peaceful protest and use only proportionate force in response to any confrontations.”

Ugandan police Friday stormed Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change offices in the capital, arresting him with other senior party officials and cracking down on protestors after accusing them of plans to announce their own vote tally. Besigye was Museveni’s personal physician during a five-year guerilla war which brought the veteran leader into power.

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