Cablegate: Uganda: Donor Group Statement On Transparency of 2011

DE RUEHKM #1166/01 2811351
R 081351Z OCT 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: On October 2, local newspapers prominently
published a statement by international donors on the importance of
free, fair and peaceful elections in Uganda in 2011. The statement
was drafted by the British High Commission on behalf of the Partners
for Democracy and Governance Group, the Chief of Mission-level donor
coordination body in Uganda. As a key member of the PDG, the U.S
Mission cleared and provided input for the letter and the United
States was listed as a PDG member when the letter was published in
the press. The statement stresses the importance of freedom of
expression, an impartial Electoral Commission, meaningful electoral
reform, and constructive dialogue in advance of 2011. The text of
the statement is attached below. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The following statement from the Partners for Democracy and
Governance Group (PDG) represents an attempt to articulate the
growing concerns of donors, echoed by Ugandans themselves, about the
country's political readiness for landmark Presidential,
Parliamentary and local-level elections in early 2011. The PDG
comprises Ambassadors and Chiefs of Mission from Austria, Belgium,
Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan,
the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the U.K., the U.S., the European
Commission, and the U.N. The U.S. Mission and all other PDG members
cleared on the text, which was drafted by the British High
Commissioner, the current PDG Chair. Uganda's two largest daily
newspapers, the New Vision and the Daily Monitor, both carried the
full text on October 2. The New Vision ran a front page article on
the letter, under the banner headline "Diplomats Speak Out On 2011

Statement Text:


From boda-boda drivers in Kampala to pastoralists in Karamoja, just
about everyone in Uganda appears to have a view on Uganda's next
Presidential and Parliamentary elections in 2011. As friends and
partners of Uganda, the liveliness of the debate seems to us
testament to the importance of democracy to Ugandans and good news
for Uganda's future. We welcome the progress Uganda has made in its
democratic development since its recovery from the earlier years of
conflict and dictatorship. We see the next elections as a further
opportunity for Uganda to continue on this positive journey and
deepen the process of democratisation in Uganda.

Responsibility for Uganda's political future of course rests firmly
with the Ugandan people through their government, elected
representatives, political parties and civil society. It is not for
outsiders to prescribe how this should happen. But as
representatives of countries or institutions committed to supporting
Uganda's economic and political development, there are a number of
issues that seem to us important to the preparation and conduct of
free, fair and peaceful elections in 2011.

While acknowledging the progress that has been made, we are also
aware that Uganda's Supreme Court in its judgement on the 2006
elections identified a number of problems. These included the use
of bribery and intimidation, and the undermining of the principles
of equal suffrage and the transparency and secrecy of the ballot by
multiple voting and vote stuffing in some areas. The Supreme Court
expressed particular concern about the continued involvement of the
security forces in the conduct of elections, disenfranchisement of
voters by deleting their names from the voters' register, partisan
conduct and malpractice by electoral officials, and the inadequacy
of voter education.

It is worth noting that electoral observers, including the East
African Community, the European Union and Commonwealth observation
missions, identified similar shortcomings and expressed concern
about the use of public resources in the election campaign.

This seems to us to indicate a number of areas that will be
particularly important in preparation for Uganda's next elections.

First, respect for the rule of law and international conventions.
This imposes responsibilities on all concerned. Respect for basic
freedoms and human rights, such as the rights of free assembly and
free expression and the freedom of the media, are essential to
democratic debate. In this respect broad debate and acceptance of a
renewed Public Order Act would be helpful to ensure responsible use
of these rights by all stakeholders.

Second, building trust in the credibility of the electoral process
and outcome. We applaud the Government's commitment to take this
forward in its Africa Peer Review Mechanism National Plan of Action.
It is particularly important in this context that the Electoral
Commission demonstrates its impartiality, independence and

KAMPALA 00001166 002.2 OF 002

Third, a clear electoral framework. We note a number of proposals
for amendments to electoral legislation, including in electoral
observation mission reports in 2006. This is a subject for debate
by Uganda's Parliament and people. It is important that changes to
legislation bearing on the elections are subject to full
consultation and agreed in good time. We agree with Prime Minister
Nsibambi when he said that any such changes should be agreed and in
place at least a year before the elections.

Fourth, a level playing field. Both the Presidential Elections Act
and the Parliamentary Elections Act prohibit candidates from using
government or public resources for the purpose of campaigning for
election. Multiparty democracy demands that there be a clear
division between party and public finances and equal access to the
media. It also demands that legislation governing the conduct of
political parties be enforced impartially. We note in this context
that the Political Parties and Organisations Act states that
political parties should make an annual statement of their financial
assets and liabilities and calls for a code of conduct for political

Fifth, the voter registration process, voter education and
organisation of polling stations. The Supreme Court judgement was
clear that there were failings in the process of voter registration
before the 2006 elections. It will be important that these mistakes
are not repeated in 2011, that there is an active programme to
inform voters of their rights and responsibilities and that there is
adequate and timely organisation of polling stations.

And lastly, sensible and constructive dialogue among Uganda's
political leaders and parties on these and other issues seems to us
essential in ensuring that the elections and the preceding campaigns
are conducted peacefully and fairly. In this context we note that
the Political Parties and Organisations Act states that there should
be a national consultative forum for political parties and
organisations to resolve disputes and ensure compliance with the
code of conduct for political parties.

None of us underestimates the challenges of building a robust and
fair democratic settlement or the challenges Uganda has had to
overcome in its political progress. In many of our countries
establishing a democratic system that commanded popular support took
hundreds of years. But we trust and hope that the 2011 elections
will mark a clear step forward in Uganda's democratic history, and
that free, fair and peaceful elections will provide a basis for
strengthening our partnership with Uganda. Many of us are already
providing technical support and assistance to Parliament, the
Electoral Commission and civil society to this end. As friends and
partners we wish Uganda every success with the next stage of the
country's democratic journey.

End Statement.


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