Kampala. Actions that reduce the political space and prevent fair and democratic competition could derail the significant progress Uganda has made in governance since 1986, US Ambassador Scott H DeLisi has warned.Mr DeLisi was speaking at the launch of Makerere University Ethics and Human Rights Association and the opening of the first annual Makerere University’s Human Rights Expo at the university’s Main Hall on Friday.
“As elections draw nearer, it is even more important that freedom of political assembly and speech are respected and that existing laws are applied in an even-handed manner to all citizens,” said Mr DeLisi.Uganda will go into presidential, parliamentary and local council elections in 2016.
Mr DeLisi observed that those who seek to legitimatise discrimination cite historical practice or culture but wondered whether legislating patriotism diminishes dissent or opposition.
He said the USA routinely speaks out on human rights issues, but added that they are aware mere highlighting abuses is not enough. He said the US must also engage constructively with governments, parliaments, civil society and ordinary citizens to find practical solutions to achieve a free society.
“With 80 per cent of Ugandans under the age of 30, the future is in the hands of this younger generation. So I ask you, will this be a country of exclusion and discrimination? Or will it be a country of inclusion, tolerance and understanding? How will the nation you build be judged by your children and your grandchildren?” he asked the more than 300 guests at the launch.
On Monday, Mr DeLisi voiced similar concerns about restrictions on freedom of assembly and speech after government blocked the opposition’s planned meetings and rallies on electoral reforms in Mbale, Soroti and Kabale towns.
Mr DeLisi’s concernMr DeLisi urged the members of the association to watch laws and Bills such as the Public Order Management Act, the Anti-Pornography Act, and the Anti-Homosexuality Act, the NGO Bill, the proposed Patriotism Bill and the pending HIVAIDS Control Bill and the new media proposed laws as some of the issues that may undermine Uganda’s democratic gains. He said all these raise legitimate questions about freedoms of speech and assembly, under the law.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor