Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
The ruling National Resistance Movement party dominated the May 2009 local elections amid low voter turnout. In August, President Yoweri Museveni reappointed the electoral commission despite opposition claims that it was biased. Simmering tensions between the government and the traditional Kingdom of Buganda erupted into violence in September. Also during the year, press freedoms were increasingly restricted, and the Ugandan military undertook joint operations against the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Democratic Republic of Congo with Congolese and Southern Sudanese forces, though the long-running conflict remained unresolved at year’s end.
Uganda is home to more than 500,000 people infected with HIV. Due to concerted efforts, the overall prevalence rate is approximately 5.4 percent, although the United Nations reports that the infection rate may be increasing.
Uganda is not an electoral democracy. The single-chamber National Assembly and the powerful president, who faces no term limits, are elected for five-year terms. Of the current legislature’s 332 members, 215 are directly elected and 104 areindirectly elected from special interest groups including women, the military, youth, the disabled, and trade unions. Thirteen ex-officio seats are held by cabinet ministers, who are not elected members and do not have voting rights.
Although the constitution enshrines the principle of equality between women and men, discrimination against women remains pronounced, particularly in rural areas. Uganda has legislated quotas for women in all elected bodies. Almost 20 percent of National Assembly members are female, and one-third of local council seats are reserved for women. The law gives women the right to inherit land, but customary practices often trump legal provisions in practice. There are no laws protecting women from domestic violence, and incidents often go unreported and are rarely investigated. Cultural practices such as female genital mutilation persist. Sexual abuse of minors appears to be increasing, and according to the International Labour Organization, more than 2.7 million children are employed as workers. The government maintains a hostile attitude toward homosexual rights, and in October 2009, an NRM lawmaker introduced a bill that would create new offenses, including “aggravated homosexuality,” and impose harsher penalties, including capital punishment. The bill was still under review by year’s end.