Open Society Report–Uganda Not Prepared for Free Election; U.S. options?

From AFP in the Daily Nation:

Uganda’s election panel has failed to establish conditions required to hold a free and fair vote less than five months before a scheduled general election, according to report seen by AFP Wednesday.

Intimidation of the opposition and media censorship both remain pervasive and the ruling party uses government structures for political purposes, says the report commissioned by Open Society Initiative for eastern Africa, a pro-democracy group linked to American billionaire George Soros.

OSIEA hired as lead author the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, though the document is not a UN report.

“The electoral commission’s failure to address constant harassment, arrests and intimidation which political groups… are subjected to by police and Kiboko (stick wielding) squads has severely undermined its credibility,” the report says.

“The commission must also address the denial of freedom of expression and speech, especially the domination of broadcast media by the government and ruling party.”

The report states it is too late for Uganda to establish ground work for a free vote, which will likely be held in late February.

This obviously presents a difficult situation for U.S. policy makers. We are training Somali soldiers in Uganda in an environment of heightened tension following the World Cup bombings in Kampala, as well as training the Ugandan military and supporting their deployment in Somalia in the AMISOM mission.

If we know that the election is simply not going to be fully legitimate up front, what are our options? We could, for instance, support Museveni in the run up to the election on the theory that since he is going to stay in power anyway, it is better to help him make it look good to promote stability. And if violence breaks out, we can support nominal power sharing of some type to placate the opposition elites. We could bring open pressure now and try to broker some type of pre-election agreement to change the environment at least to some extent–or do something similar quietly. We could stay neutral and support the process as best we can without a specific agenda and maximize our position to contribute to problem-solving in the aftermath as honest brokers. Interesting choices.