President Yoweri Museveni and the European Union (EU) envoys have discussed the forthcoming 2021 general election, condemning the creeping elements of violence that have of late defined the opposition actors and Police interactions.
According to sources, during the meeting at State House, Entebbe, on Friday (November 6, 2020), EU criticised Police for what they described as “the recent violent” arrest of two presidential candidates – the president of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Patrick Amuriat Oboi and the president of the National Unity Platform (NUP), Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine.
“Uganda’s upcoming general election, including the importance of ensuring a level playing field for all political actors, as well as the EU’s role as a neutral partner both to the government and civil society in supporting the democratic process, were also covered,” EU envoys stated in their statement issued over the weekend, saying their dialogue with Museveni “took place in an open, cordial and constructive atmosphere.”
“Both sides recalled the importance for all actors involved in the electoral process, including the political parties and their supporters, as well as the security forces and the law enforcement agencies, to refrain from unlawful acts,” the envoys noted in their statement.
Sources said over the weekend that on top of calling for an even-playing political field and ending violence, the envoys also rooted for equal access to media for all contenders since the showdown is largely going to be ‘scientific’ without mass rallies.
On November 3, Oboi was arrested near the FDC headquarters and taken to the nomination centre in Kyambogo ahead of his scheduled time while Kyagulanyi was arrested shortly after his nomination and driven to his home.
Explaining the arrest of the two Opposition leaders, Police said they had violated the agreed guidelines ahead of their nominations.
Speaking to New Vision over the weekend, the state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, confirmed that EU envoys raised concerns about what transpired during presidential nominations on November 3.
“They raised concerns about what happened during nominations on November 3. However, the President assured them that the government will not allow any group or individuals to conduct any violent acts.
The President also made it clear that he condemns the methods that some Police officers use to conduct arrests of people who breach the law,” Oryem said.
However, he also made it clear that what happened on November 3 was designed by members of the Opposition to get attraction of the international community.
The President wondered how out of the 11 candidates, including generals (Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu and Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde), only two got involved in a fracas with the Police.
He added that the leaders who were arrested were in total breach of the procedures of the day, as agreed.
No one is above the law
Oryem said if the President, who is also a military general, followed the guidelines, why would Kyagulanyi and Amuriat defy them?
“The President, therefore, invited EU leaders to condemn the breach of guidelines by these two Opposition leaders and the attack on Police by their supporters,” Oryem said.
“When you talk about violence by the Police, you should also talk about violence by lumpens within the opposition.
During the meeting, the President condemned all forms of violence. He, however, said he will not tolerate any form of violence by anybody.
He also said all media, especially the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), should accord campaign airtime to every candidate,” he added.
During the meeting, Museveni and EU envoys also discussed the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on Uganda, how to rejuvenate tourism, wildlife, and environmental conservation.
The EU envoys, sources say, particularly objected to what they described as “the proposed giveaway” of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve to Hoima Sugar Ltd to grow sugarcane and the increased encroachment on swamps and wetlands across the country.
Asked whether EU envoys probed the Bugoma and Zoka forest proposed give-away, Oryem said the issue was discussed, and the President cautioned against the destruction of the forest.
“We talked about Bugoma and Zoka forests and the President agreed with the EU envoys that we cannot let Bugoma and Zoka be destroyed.
The President added that this matter will be taken up by the government seriously, after elections.
The President also explained that local leaders should strike a balance between sugarcane growing and protection of the forest,” he said.
The Museveni-EU dialogue was convened under the effectiveness of EU’s political dialogue on Human Rights under Article 8 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (ACP) with African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries.
“The EU and Uganda also exchanged views on a number of regional issues of mutual interest,” EU envoys noted in their statement.