As Commonwealth observers began deploying across Uganda, the group’s Chair, Olusegun Obasanjo, expressed his hope that the country’s people will enjoy a peaceful and credible election on 18 February.
The Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group, who led Nigeria as President between 1999 and 2007, joined the team in Kampala on 15 February ahead of the scheduled presidential and parliamentary polls.
President Obasanjo commented: “As observers, we hope to see a transparent and credible election process. Our eyes are open, and we will report what we see without fear or favour.”
“All stakeholders, including party candidates and supporters, election officials, police and security forces, should play their part in ensuring voters are free to express their preference at the ballot box and the election is conducted peacefully, without resort to intimidation or violence,” he said.
Commonwealth election observer teams travelled to Arua, Gulu, Kabale, Kampala, Jinja, Masindi, Mbale and Mbarara earlier on 16 February, where they will observe voting, counting and results processes at polling stations and counting centres. An interim assessment of their observations will be issued shortly after election day.
“We will be utterly impartial and objective in conducting our observation duties, acting in our individual capacities as independent Commonwealth citizens. Our assessment will be our own, and we will aim to be as constructive as possible,” President Obasanjo continued.
“I wish the people of Uganda well and pledge the unwavering solidarity of the Commonwealth family to the strengthening of the country’s democracy,” he added.
Earlier on 16 February, President Obasanjo alongside the heads of other international observer missions in Uganda issued a joint call to Ugandan stakeholders to “refrain from any act, statement or dissemination of information that may cause tension, ill-will, disturbance, intimidation and adversely affect the peaceful and orderly conduct of elections.”
The Commonwealth Observer Group has been in Uganda since 11 February. The 13-strong team is vice-chaired by Senator Amos Wako, a former Attorney-General of Kenya.
Since its arrival the group has met with the Electoral Commission to discuss preparations for polling day. It has also heard from political parties, citizen observer groups, human rights, gender and youth groups, as well as resident High Commissioners from Commonwealth countries.
The group’s eminent members include serving and former politicians, electoral commissioners, human rights, gender, youth and media experts, hailing from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Dominica, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, and the United Kingdom.