The United States government has condemned the arrests of protesters and Members of Parliament that occurred this week opposed to the proposed amendment of the constitution to scrap the Presidential age limit. The U.S. said on Thursday that such arrests deprive Ugandan citizens of their right to express themselves on an issue that is critical for the entire country.
In a statement issued Thursday, the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac further conveyed concern over the directive by Communications regulator UCC banning the media from broadcasting live events on the political happenings in Uganda. UCC claimed live broadcasting of such events including Parliament sessions on the contentious Presidential Age Limit was inciting violence, hatred, insecurity and discrimination among the public.
Ambassador Malac stated that “the issue of the Presidential age limit is one for Ugandans to decide, and the Ugandan government is responsible for ensuring all Ugandans have the right to discuss this issue freely and without fear of intimidation.”
“We are disturbed by reports of multiple arrests throughout the country, including reports of arrests and rough treatment of some Members of Parliament, and we expect Ugandan authorities to treat all of these individuals humanely,” she added in the statement.
The Ambassador said that the media have an important and legitimate role to play in ensuring all Ugandans can follow the proceedings of their elected legislative representatives, describing UCC’s directive as “concerning”.
Malac urged the government of Uganda and the citizens to fulfil their responsibilities of protecting the people’s rights and freedoms, and the masses to maintain peace so as to avoid violence.
Barely a week ago, in the wake of heightened tension and demonstrations against amending the Presidential age limit, both the U.S. and the Delegation of European Union in Uganda called on government to safeguard people’s rights especially freedom of expression. But government in its response said it would not tolerate lawlessness and violence.