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Uganda: Democracy and Freedom of Expression

Question for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

UIN 148779, tabled on 3 February 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of steps taken by his Department's to support democracy and freedom of speech in Uganda.

Answered on

10 February 2021

The UK Government supports programmes for civil society groups and organisations in Uganda that promote democracy, robust institutions, and transparent elections. We have worked with Uganda over a number of years, helping to strengthen institutions in Uganda to uphold democratic freedoms and advocate for the equal treatment of all Ugandans according to the terms of the Ugandan constitution and laws. We have noted some areas of progress including increases in voter turnout at the 2016 elections following voter education initiatives, the bolstering of legal aid provision that supports human rights defenders and journalists, increased accountability at local government level, and enhanced efficiency in the adjudication of corruption cases at the Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court via the provision of technical assistance. However, the UK still has significant concerns about the treatment of opposition candidates and restrictions on political freedoms in Uganda. This does not provide for an open political landscape within which democracy can flourish. As a result, we have regularly raised our concerns with the Government of Uganda to press them on these issues so that democratic principles, the rule of law and political freedoms are upheld. As part of the Media Freedom Coalition, we underlined the importance of the media's ability to provide accurate and reliable information via a statement on 8 January. The Government of Uganda's continued restrictions on social media and temporary shutdown of the internet during the elections have reduced the transparency of those elections and limited the ability of Ugandans to exercise their right to freedom of expression, we have lobbied against these restrictions and will continue to do so. Following the unacceptable constraints placed on the opposition candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, the British High Commission in Kampala pressed the Ugandan authorities to remove restrictions on his political freedoms prior to the lifting of his de facto house arrest on 25 January. Our High Commissioner has engaged with political leaders across all parties, including Kyagulanyi, to discuss these issues and push for democratic engagement and reform. As a long-standing partner to Uganda, the UK will continue to follow post-election developments closely, and engage with the Ugandan Government and Ugandans to advocate for democracy.