Washington – US Secretary of State John Kerry voiced concern Friday about election chaos in Uganda, calling on President Yoweri Museveni to rein in security forces after they repeatedly arrested his main challenger.
Provisional results gave the 71-year-old longtime president a solid lead in the vote that has been marred by delays at polling sites, demonstrations by frustrated voters and police using tear gas.
Kerry spoke on the phone with Museveni “to underscore that Uganda’s progress depends on adherence to democratic principles in the ongoing election process,” the State Department said in a statement.
The top American diplomat expressed concern about the detention of opposition candidate Kizza Besigye and harassment of opposition party members.
Besigye, who was arrested Monday and Thursday, was again taken into custody on Friday after security forces raided his Forum for Democratic Change party headquarters firing tear gas and water cannons.
Police accused party supporters of disturbing the peace and said the party planned to publish its own tally of results, contravening electoral law.
“(Kerry) urged President Museveni to rein in the police and security forces, noting that such action calls into question Uganda’s commitment to a transparent and credible election process free from intimidation,” the State Department statement said.
Kerry also urged Museveni to remove blocks on popular social media and mobile money sites that had been put into place on Election Day.
He noted he was encouraged that hours at some polling sites were extended.
Over 15 million Ugandans were registered to vote for president and members of parliament, with 290 seats contested by candidates from 29 political parties.