The European Union delegation in Uganda has condemned state repression of the freedom of expression citing tensions that built up in and outside Kampala.
EU said such tensions could damage the country’s international reputation.
“We monitor closely and which concern most recent reports of cases of arrests and actions targeting NGOs and political activists,” said EU in a statement.
“We are troubled by inflammatory language used in debating issues of national interest pertaining to the democratic process in Uganda.”
EU called on Uganda authorities to guarantee fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly as enshrined in the constitution.
Earlier, the head of US mission to Uganda, Deborah Malac, had also condemned police raids and sieges of non-governmental organisations.
Malac condemned the on-going arrests by security forces of opponents of the proposal to remove the presidential age limit as “disturbing” and violation to freedoms of democracy and expression.
Opondo spits venom
Uganda government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo, lashed out at Malac saying her statement was misplaced and asked her to desist from meddling in Ugandan affairs.
“Government of Uganda will spare no effort in promptly dealing with and neutralizing criminal minded people including political leaders who think they enjoy the misguided protection from some foreign missions,” Opondo said in a statement.
He said only Ugandans through their government and elected representatives know and shall decide how best they want to be governed and by whom.
“While we value diplomatic relations with all the countries of the world, Uganda is not very keen to take unqualified lectures from foreign agents,” he pointed out.
He also justified the incidents involving the police and CSO’s, saying the government cannot sit back as misguided people especially opposition politicians and civil society leaders intimidate elected Members of Parliament and the wider public simply because they don’t hold the same views as theirs on any matter.
He said US Ambassador to Uganda Malac hastily issued a media statement expressing her concerns over freedom of Expression in Uganda, with regard the alleged arrests, and, or police search of offices of some Non-Governmental Organisation that have been linked to receiving financial support from foreign sources with the intention committing illegal activities in Uganda.
Firstly, these under the laws of Uganda, and in accordance with international protocols, it is illegal to receive money from undisclosed sources as those sources could be part of terrorism networks around the world, and also the need to disrupt money laundering.
While the Government of Uganda notes her concern, it is our considered view that they are misplaced because those so far summoned or held as a preventive measure are well-known to have been making statements over the last couple of months on various public media (Radios, TVs, and social media) threatening violence over what should otherwise be a civil and democratic process and debate in the parliament of Uganda.
Some of those summoned by police have made recorded statement and posted them on the media threatening to kill those they disagree with together with members of their families which cannot be tolerated.
“We therefore ask for patience as law enforcement conducts its investigations,” Opondo went on, saying government of Uganda through its law enforcement agencies cannot sit back as misguided people especially opposition politicians and civil society leaders intimidate elected Members of Parliament and the wider public simply because they don’t hold the same views as theirs on any matter.
He said the on-going debate in parliament and within the country with regard to possible constitutional amendments, and electoral reforms must be conducted by all sides to the debate in a civil, cordial and peaceful way however contentious the issues may be in an effort to build consensus.
Should consensus fail, then the matter shall be decided by parliament as the elected legitimate body as the constitution provides, he explained.
“The government of Uganda wishes to reiterate its firm commitment to observe and protect the enjoyment of all their rights and freedoms to peacefully assemble in order to, express, associate, and petition government on any matter without threatening the lives or property of others including those of the people with whom they may disagree.”
Human rights defenders speak
Human rights defenders and activists also condemned the police raid of some city civil society organisations.
Police on Wednesday surrounded the headquarters of Action Aid Uganda, in Kansanga and Great Lakes Initiative for Strategic Studies where they conducted a cordon and search operation.
The executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative Dr Livingstone Ssewanyana describes this as a move aimed at intimidating them not to continue opposing the lifting of the age limit for age limit.