JANUARY 15, 2010: Clinton to Monitor Uganda Elections

Clinton to Monitor Elections
SOURCE: Monitor
By Tabu Butagira

The American congress has directed Obama’s administration to tightly watch Uganda’s preparations for the 2011 elections.

The unprecedented directive, requiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to appraise the lawmakers on the hue of electoral groundwork beginning in March, details a closer scrutiny of candidates' security during campaigns.

120-Day Accounts

Independence of the Electoral Commission - a disputed matter locally, creating an accurate and verifiable voter registry; media freedom and citizens right to political assembly as well as timely announcement and posting of election results, are some of the salient issues the Congress wants sorted.

"The conferees direct the Secretary of State to submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations not later than 90 days after enactment of this Act and every 120 days thereafter until 30 days after the elections, detailing actions taken by the Government of Uganda to address these concerns," reads the directive.

The US mission in Kampala said yesterday that it is prepared to implement the legislative directive "because it is what we are doing already."

"We will follow the directive of Congress and prepare the reports they want," said Ms Joann Lockard, the public affairs officer, at the American embassy.

News of the legislative directive was broken by Voice of America during the Straight Talk Africa show on Wednesday, hosted by Ugandan-born American journalist, Shaka Ssali.

Daily Monitor has learnt that the directive comes alongside a Congress approval of $70.6 million (Shs134b) to Uganda in development assistance.

State International Affairs Minister Oryem Okello welcomed the directive because "our government is transparent and have nothing to hide".

"We are confident we will fulfill the expectations not only of the US but more importantly Ugandans that will be participating in the elections," he said.

Uganda will hold presidential and general elections early next year but emotions are running high over possibility of vote stealing as has happened in previous polls. The ruling NRM and opposition parties are in a political gridlock over composition of the Badru Kiggundu-led Electoral Commission.

Otunnu's Take

The US intervention therefore strikes at the heart of local squabbling on how to organise a credible, fair and free poll.

Mr Olara Otunnu, who is vying to be Uganda People's Congress presidential flag bearer, while appearing on Shaka Ssali's show described the directive as a "milestone because for the first time the Museveni regime is being held to the same electoral standards as other governments".

He said: "Up until now, the regime has enjoyed scandalous exceptionalism, particularly concerning democracy, human rights and corruption. This is the beginning of the end of that impunity."

The ramification of non-compliance remained unclear but some diplomats said the Congress, which appropriates federal spending, including foreign aid, could freeze assistance to Uganda.

To coordinate international action, the American lawmakers want the Department of State to carry out the electoral audit together with the European Union, Canada and other development partners....
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