Annual Report: Uganda 2007

May 28, 2007

Annual Report: Uganda 2007

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Head of state and government: Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: ratified

There was progress in peace talks in Southern Sudan between the government and the armed group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), promising a possible end to 20 years of conflict in northern Uganda. Elections passed off relatively peacefully. Opposition presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye was acquitted of rape but continued to face treason charges. Attacks on freedom of expression and press freedom continued, as did reports of torture of detainees and harassment of people on account of their sexual orientation. Violence against women was widespread. Military courts continued to impose death sentences.


A law enacted in May required non-governmental organizations to reregister annually. A Board comprised overwhelmingly of government representatives was set up to approve registrations.

Parliamentary and presidential elections took place in February, the first multi-party elections for 26 years. They were monitored by more than 500 election observers and, despite shortcomings including media bias and incomplete voter registration lists, were generally found to be transparent and relatively peaceful. President Museveni won almost 60 per cent of the votes and his main opponent, Dr Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), took 37 per cent. On 7 March Dr Besigye filed a suit in the Supreme Court, seeking to have the election results nullified. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal on 6 April.

Election violence

There were some reports of violence and intimidation, mostly of opposition supporters, particularly in the last three weeks of the campaign. Military forces were seen around some polling stations on election day.

• On 15 February, three FDC supporters were shot and killed in Kampala when a soldier opened fire at a crowd waiting for Dr Besigye.

Trials of Dr Kizza Besigye

During 2006, Dr Besigye faced three separate court cases on charges of terrorism, rape and treason. He was released on bail on 2 January.

On 31 January the Constitutional Court ruled that Dr Besigye could not be tried for terrorism by a military court when the High Court was pursuing a case against him based on the same facts. On 7 March, President Museveni stated that Dr Besigye and his 22 co-accused would not be tried in a military court for terrorism and illegal possession of weapons.

The trial of Dr Besigye for rape began on 4 January. He was acquitted on 7 March following a recommendation by the jury. The state indicated an intention to appeal against the acquittal but no appeal had been filed by the end of the year.

On 15 March the trial of Dr Besigye and 22 other men for treason started in the High Court in Kampala. Several witnesses testified, including Onen Kamdulu, a former LRA leader suspected of gross human rights abuses who had been granted an amnesty. Defence counsel contested his appearance, but in October the Constitutional Court ruled that he should be allowed

to testify and that the judge would rule on the admissibility of evidence. The trial was stayed in May 2006 following the filing of a constitutional petition by the defence lawyers in the Constitutional Court. The petition challenged the continued detention of the 22 people who had been accused with Dr Besigye on the basis that they had been granted bail by an earlier court order. The petition was argued in October 2006 and judgement was pending.

In September, the government sought to overturn the decision to grant bail to Dr Besigye, but the Constitutional Court upheld the High Court decision.