Commonwealth Committment to Harare Declaration: The Uganda Case

We the people of the Commonwealth come together to sign this petition to demand that the Commonwealth be held accountable to its own committments under the Harare Declaration of 1991.  Two past elections in Uganda in 2001 and 2006 have returned the incumbent  after violent campaigns and rigged results as ruled by Uganda's Supreme Court and observed by local and international election observers.  Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth for electoral fraud and violence, yet Uganda will be honored by hosting CHOGM 2007.  We demand equal treatment of all member states regardless of the color or race of their citizenry.  Act Now!

May it please Your Excellency,

The people of the Commonwealth have come together to sign this petition ahead of CHOGM 2007 so that Her Majesty the Queen- Head of the Commonwealth, and Members of the august Commonwealth Heads of State and Government are left in no doubt that permitting Yoweri Museveni's government in Uganda to host the prestigious Summit in 2007 before his government undertakes reforms to restore democracy, rule of law, and contitutionalism is a betrayal of the principles of the Commonwealth and an infringement of the letter and spirit of the 1991 Harare Declaration.

The Harare Declaration of CHOGM 1991 states ‘…we pledge the Commonwealth and our countries to work with renewed vigour, concentrating especially in the following areas: the protection and promotion of the fundamental political values of the Commonwealth: democracy, democratic processes and institutions which reflect national circumstances, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, just and honest government; fundamental human rights, including equal rights and opportunities for all citizens regardless of race, colour, creed or political belief…’

You recall that at CHOGM 2005 in Malta the distinguished Heads of State and Government were appalled that Yoweri Museveni's government had handcuffed and jailed his main political opponent ahead of the presidential elections for what has become increasingly clear were trumped up charges, some of which have been dismissed with contempt by Ugandan courts.

You recall that Zimbabwe was suspended from Councils of the Commonwealth in March 2002 in response to the violence and vote-rigging that surrounded Robert Mugabe’s re-election. In 2006, the Commonwealth observer mission to Uganda stated in their report, “The environment in which the elections were held had a number of negative features which meant that the candidates were not competing on a level playing field: the failure to ensure a clear distinction between the ruling party and the State, the use of public resources to provide an advantage to the ruling party, the lack of balance in media coverage, the harassment of the main opposition presidential candidate, the creation of a climate of apprehension amongst the public and opposition party supporters as a result of the use of the security forces, and the alleged use of financial and material inducements.”

Furthermore in an election petition that followed the elections, Uganda's Supreme Court found that there was “non-compliance with the provisions and principles of the Constitution, Presidential Elections Act and the Electoral Commission Act, in the conduct of the 2006 Presidential Elections; in disenfranchisement of voters by deleting their names from the voters register or denying them the right to vote and in the counting and tallying of results.”  And the judges commented on matters which gave them grave concern including “the continued involvement of the security forces in the conduct of elections where they committed acts of intimidation, violence and partisan harassment.”

Moreover, Article 1(4) of the 1995 Constitution states; “The people shall express their will and consent on who shall govern them and how they should be governed through regular, free and fair elections...”

You will recall that Abuja CHOGM 2003 extended Zimbabwe’s suspension because Mugabe had done nothing to carry out democratic and electoral reforms following initial suspension.  The extension was made amidst protest  that the ‘White Commonwealth’ acted swiftly against Zimbabwe because there were ‘White interests’ to protect. It is our sincere belief that the racist argument will regain currency if Zimbabwe is punished for infringement of the Harare Declaration and yet Uganda is rewarded with hosting CHOGM 2007 in spite of committing similar infringements as Zimbabwe.

Now therefore it is your humble petitioner's prayer that

--You convene the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) whose mandate it is to assess the nature of the infringement and recommend measures for collective Commonwealth action aimed at speedy restoration of democracy and constitutional rule in Uganda.

-- That CMAG seeks the independent testimony of Ugandan political parties, courts, media, and civil society organizations as to the extent of the infringement of the Harare Declaration and then demand that Museveni’s government undertakes democratic reforms ahead of the Summit.

-- That failing the implementation of such reforms, the Heads of State and Government should consider withdrawing their attendance or significantly lowering the level of representation so that they are not seen to lend credence to a dictatorial regime.

--That in any case the agenda of CHOGM 2007, should focus on human rights, rule of law, constitutionalism, independence of the judiciary, democracy, and the situation in northern Uganda.

Such is our humble prayer.

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