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Rene’ Baptiste, member of Uganda election observer group

Rene’ Baptiste, member of Uganda election observer group

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Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who headed the Commonwealth election observer mission to Uganda’s 2016 General Elections, has called on all sides to “exercise restraint and avoid unnecessary confrontations” in the aftermath of the Ugandan election.

In a statement, he also said that “restrictions on movement of, and accessibility to, all political leaders should {{more}}be removed”, but did not mention arrested Opposition Leader Kizza Besigye by name. He added that failures in the electoral process “had a detrimental effect on the fairness and credibility of the elections,” but emphasized that differences should be worked out through dialogue.

President Obasanjo stated: “For the benefit of all Ugandans, I urge government and opposition stakeholders to work together in a spirit of open and inclusive dialogue. Police and security forces and political party supporters should exercise restraint and avoid unnecessary confrontations. Restrictions on movement of, and accessibility to, all political leaders should be removed, to allow for an atmosphere conducive to dialogue to prevail.

“In our interim statement, attention was pointed to deficiencies and failures in the electoral process which obviously had a detrimental effect on the fairness and credibility of the elections. However, where there is dissatisfaction with any aspect of the election results, all the avenues set out in the law should be utilised.”

President Obasanjo further added: “I welcome moves by the Government of Uganda to lift the restrictions on social media which were imposed on election day. Social media are tools of freedom of speech and expression and are a part of modern democracy.”

On February 20, President Obasanjo issued the interim assessment of the Commonwealth Observer Group. The observers said Uganda’s 2016 General Elections were marked by a lack of a level electoral playing field, increased prevalence of money in politics, and alleged misuse of state resources. The observers also raised question marks over the secrecy of the ballot and the competence of the Electoral Commission to manage the process.

The Commonwealth Observer group to the 2016 Uganda elections included three observers from the OECS — one from St Lucia, one from Dominica and former parliamentarian and president of the Bar Association René Baptiste from St Vincent and the Grenadines.

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