Uganda | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Not Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Partly Free
Net Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

While Uganda holds regular elections, their credibility has deteriorated over time, and the country has been ruled by the same party and president since 1986. The ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), retains power through the manipulation of state resources, intimidation by security forces, and politicized prosecutions of opposition leaders. Uganda’s civil society and media sectors remain vibrant, despite suffering sporadic legal and extralegal harassment and state violence. The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community remains under threat.

Key Developments: 
  • In February, Uganda held deeply flawed general elections that featured harassment and violence against the opposition, among other abuses. President Yoweri Museveni of the ruling NRM was officially awarded another five-year term in office.
  • In May, Kizza Besigye, the leading opposition presidential candidate, was charged with treason following months of arrests, detentions, and periods of house arrest.
  • Legislation enacted in January contained ill-defined regulatory provisions for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that could allow government interference, and extralegal intimidation remained a serious challenge to civil society advocacy.
Executive Summary: 

In 2016, Uganda held its third general elections since the transition to a multiparty system in 2005. While incumbent president Museveni was reelected, the polls were marred by severe intimidation of voters and the opposition, the repeated arrest of presidential challenger Kizza Besigye, the use of state resources for the ruling party’s campaign, and significant delays in voting.

The president signed the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Act in January, despite criticism that its ambiguous language could be used to ban groups that challenge the government. The authorities also interfered with the free flow of information, shutting down access to social media in the periods around the February elections and the presidential inauguration in May. Police brutality and harassment intensified during the year, targeting opposition candidates, their supporters, and civil society activists. Separately, although the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) was struck down on a technicality in 2014, a 2016 report showed that the LGBT community continued to experience human rights abuses.

Aggregate Score: 
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Political Rights: 
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