If supporters of the ruling NRM party expected a congratulatory message from the US embassy in Kampala following the Supreme Court’s decision last week that validated President Yoweri Museveni’s victory in last February 18, they will be disappointed.
Instead, the new American Ambassador Deborah Malac has turned up the heat on the government by criticising its growing repressive tendencies including detention of opposition leaders, harassment of the media and suppression of other fundamental basic rights such as freedom of expression such as the recent shutdown of social media platforms.
Ambassador Malac delivered her stinging criticism in a post election symposium on youth, democracy and governance. The symposium was held on April 6, 2016 at Hotel Africana and was attended by over 300 University students.
Ambassador Malac argued that whereas the government has an obligation to preserve the security of borders and its people, it should not use security as an excuse to sacrifice the fundamental rights in the name of stability.
“In a healthy and democratic society, the people, the press, and the opposition are not the enemy. An open political process and citizen participation in government strengthens a country, and a country that does not respect the rights and freedoms of its own people can never be truly secure,” said Ambassador Malac.
The US envoy urged young people to rise up from slumber and work towards building a happier and more democratic country. She said however that the task requires more than entering politics for those who are talented, but involves meeting other challenges such as helping to provide education for the needy, treat the sick or engage in other economic activities that build the country.
She told the young people that: “The bottom line is that you must do something and take the responsibility upon yourselves to make things happen. I challenge all of you today to try and put your ideas into action, because by simply accepting the status quo, you only guarantee that things will remain the same.
“Students worldwide often find themselves at the forefront of social change and reform. In the United States, the student movement in the 1960s led the protests against American involvement in Vietnam,” added the US envoy.
Ambassador Malac however warned the young people against turning to violence as a means to achieving change.
“The idealism of youth-led movements gets lost when youth resort to violence. Let me be clear: violence has no place in a democratic society – regardless of your position inside or outside government. I urge all of you to reject any calls or rhetoric that urge or encourage violence.”