by Dr. Kizza Besigye
Feb. 20, 2016 – We have just witnessed what must be the most fraudulent electoral process in Uganda. We participated in this process to highlight and show the world quite how fraudulent this military regime is.
The Electoral Commission is not independent and its technical incompetence and partisanship has been made clear for all to see. The voting material was not delivered in time. People were unlawfully removed from the Voters’ Register whilst ghosts were wantonly added.
Freedoms of assembly and expression were wantonly curbed. We were not free to carry out our campaigns without intimidation and interference from the partisan Uganda Police Force and the NRM’s militia dubbed the Crime Preventers.
On election day, all access to social media platforms was switched off. This can only have been designed to impede transparency of the election.
The popular mobile money platforms were also disabled, cutting millions of ordinary people off from their meager resources. This can only be described as illegal collective punishment, which is an offense under international law.
Then after the elections, as the Electoral Commission started announcing falsified results when we called a press conference to show the world the results that we had, results that were announced at polling stations in the presence of citizens and our own polling agents, the Uganda Police Force brutally stormed our offices and arrested Party President Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu, Chief Mobiliser Ms. Ingrid Turinawe and myself. We were detained without charge at Naggalama Police Station and, whilst Gen. Muntu and I were released late in the night, Ms. Turinawe was detained overnight.
Today I am under house arrest. My home is sealed off and I am not allowed to leave. Nobody is allowed to access my home. I am also under some kind of electronic blockade. I am unable to access any form of internet service in my house.
Generally, the regime is baring its bloodied fangs and claws for all to see. This has not been an electoral process. This is a creeping military coup.
What must be done
I have come to ask for two things:
- The results of the presidential elections must be rejected by the international community.
- An international commission should be established to audit the results of the elections.
A profound faith in democracy
While I address you as a presidential candidate, I greet you today as human rights and a pro-democracy activist. As you know, I have dedicated my adult life to the struggle for democracy in Uganda.
I come from the generation which believes that democracy is the gateway to human rights and human dignity and to the rule of law, and to tolerance and pluralism. Any government which claims to derive its mandate from the people must believe and practice democracy.
Anyone who believes in human dignity, and who believes that we are all created in the image of God and that we all stand equal before the law, must believe and practice democracy.
Anyone who believes in Pan-Africanism and the dignity of the African person, and that an African has the equal claim to life as any person on this earth, must believe and practice democracy.
And to those friends around the world who wish Africa well and who believe in the dignity of the African continent, they too must believe in democracy and the inalienable right of the African to enjoy it and to live by the universal democratic creed.
I believe deeply in my heart that the African Renaissance will never happen without democracy. I believe profoundly that the East African Federation would be stillborn without democracy.
I believe deeply in my heart that the African Renaissance will never happen without democracy.
Sir Winston Churchill once said that the empires of the future will be the empires of the mind. That was true and profound. I hasten to reframe that statement. The empires of the future will be the empires of democracy.
No one can be a full citizen of the 21st century without enjoying the full blessings of democracy. Any claim to the contrary is false.
There can be no citizenship without democracy.
Democracy on trial in Uganda
Today democracy is on trial in Uganda. The evidence is all around us.
The most sacred right of a citizen is the right to vote peacefully and freely. There is no greater right in a free and open society. It’s upon the right to vote that all other democratic rights are anchored. Today the right to vote – and the right to do so peacefully – has been wantonly violated in Uganda.
That violation should be a profound moral offense to all of us – a profound offense to all the citizens of Uganda. And it is an offense to all Africans and to all global citizens.
When you violate the rights of an African to vote, you insult his and her humanity and you rob him of his human dignity. That was the fundamental offense of colonialism: the odious practice and the insulting belief that an African could be a subject but never a citizen.
When you violate the rights of an African to vote, you insult his and her humanity and you rob him of his human dignity. That was the fundamental offense of colonialism.
Today in Uganda, the right to vote – the very essence of citizenship – has been violated with impunity.
International community asked to sanction impunity and human rights violations
And the international community has been asked to sanction those gross human rights violations. You have been asked to sanction elections that are neither free nor fair nor credible.
And there is only one logic to that request: that African lives do not matter. And that an African can live without democracy or human dignity.
Instead of democracy, the logic goes, an African would rather receive international charity.
Instead of democracy, an African would rather be trained in post-conflict resolution.
By ratifying these sham elections, the international community is being invited to become a partner in the violations of the African people.
I am therefore here to ask the international community to have the courage to defend the millions of Ugandans – the youth and the elderly – who had the courage to vote. Let them know that it’s not a crime to be an African.
Please reject the temptation to ratify these sham elections.
Have the courage to defend the millions of Ugandans – the youth and the elderly – who had the courage to vote. Let them know that it’s not a crime to be an African. Please reject the temptation to ratify these sham elections.
But should you ratify the results of these sham elections, at least have the courage to admit that you do not care about democracy or human rights in Africa.
No one who can sanction these elections can credibly profess to be for democracy or for human rights in Africa. I am greatly heartened by the fact that the international observer missions from the AU, the EU and the Commonwealth have all, in their preliminary reports indicated that this exercise has not been free, fair, transparent or credible.
I urge you, on behalf of the brave citizens of Uganda, to reject the results of these sham elections.
To my brothers and sisters across Africa, I urge you to stand with the people of Uganda and to assert the rights of every African to live in a free and democratic society.
To my fellow Ugandans, I salute your courage and thank you for your support and for believing in democracy and peace. Democracy is the only path to peace and prosperity and to the rule of law.
Remain vigilant and steadfast. The struggle is long and hard but, in the end, we shall win if we continue in our patient and steadfast resolve. The regime cannot survive without our co-operation. Let us denounce this electoral theft by withdrawing our recognition of the regime and ceasing to co-operate with it.
Let us have the strength and the courage to finish this struggle. I vow deep in my heart that Uganda shall be free!
One Uganda! One people!
For God and my country.
Dr. Kizza Besigye
Dr. Kizza Besigye is the leading opposition candidate for the presidency of Uganda. Learn more on Uganda Diaspora P10: Peoples’ Power for Peaceful Transition and Transformation.