President Obama
President Obama

Washington, Feb 20, 2016 (AFP) – The United States on Saturday noted a series of troubling “irregularities” in Uganda’s presidential and parliamentary elections and said that “the Ugandan people deserve better.” Ugandan election officials said President Yoweri Museveni won 60 percent of the vote, handing him a fifth term. But opposition leader Kizza Besigye, in a message issued while under house arrest, denounced what he said were “sham elections.”

Mark Toner, a spokesman for the US State Department, called for Besigye’s immediate release and said in a statement that while the elections had been peaceful, their conduct was “deeply inconsistent with international standards and expectations for any democratic process.” He cited “delays in the delivery of voting materials, reports of pre-checked ballots and vote buying, ongoing blockage of social media sites, and excessive use of force by the police.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Museveni on Friday to “rein in” his security forces. Although Museveni was easily re-elected, at least 19 of his ministers lost their parliamentary seats, among them Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga, who has spearheaded regional efforts to end the political crisis in Burundi. Museveni and Besigye, the opposition leader, were once close, having fought together in a bush war to overthrow the country’s first post-independence leader, Milton Obote. But Besigye has now made four unsuccessful attempts to unseat his former comrade-in-arms.

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