A crackdown on Uganda’s civil society and independent media in response to a new anti-corruption campaign has prompted protests from democracy advocates and human rights groups.
The government’s clampdown followed the launch of a Return Our Money Campaign with an open letter accusing the Ugandan government of numerous instances of corruption, including the payment of Ushs 20 million (approx. US$8650) in public funds to all members of parliament, an act which civil society and critics have widely interpreted as an attempt to buy MPs’ votes.
Facilitation for Peace and Development (FAPAD), an NGO supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, was among the organizations called in for questioning and threatened by officials after it read the letter on Radio Rhino, a northern Uganda-based radio station.
Human Rights Watch condemned the intimidation and harassment of Ugandan civil society groups prior to next week’s general elections.
The latest incidents are part of a larger government effort to silence critics as the incumbent president Yoweri Museveni seeks a fourth term in office. The cumulative effect of these acts of intimidation could be “a chilling effect on civil society members and local journalists, especially those in rural areas,” says Human Rights Watch, making them “reluctant to report on and research corruption and human rights issues.”
According to its 2010 country report, Freedom House considers Uganda “partly free.”