Uganda, with a population of 30 million, is a republic led by President Yoweri Museveni of the ruling National Resistance Movement party. The February 2006 presidential and parliamentary elections generally reflected the will of the electorate; however, both were marred by serious irregularities. The country's young multiparty government faced challenges as the executive, judiciary, and parliament tested their institutional limits. The government and Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) continued negotiations to end the 22‑year conflict in the north, and there were no LRA attacks reported in 2007. As a result, security and human rights conditions continued to improve, encouraging hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons to return to or near their homes. However, the ongoing conflict in the Karamoja region resulted in deaths and the displacement of thousands of civilians. The Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) continued to demonstrate increased respect for human rights. The government passed a comprehensive child labor policy and continued to work to improve prison conditions. Serious human rights issues remained, including unlawful killings and abuse of suspects by security forces; vigilante justice; harsh prison conditions; charges of official impunity; arbitrary arrest; lengthy pretrial detention; restrictions on the right to a fair trial and on freedoms of speech, the press, and association; and violence and discrimination against women and children.
The U.S. government's strategy for promoting freedom and democracy in the country focuses on the institutionalization of democratic institutions, encouragement of transparent and accountable government, and respect for human rights and religious freedom. The strategy also combats child labor and trafficking in persons. The ambassador and other U.S. officials regularly raise these issues in public speeches, interviews, and in meetings with national and local officials.
The United States encourages respect for constitutional checks and balances through strengthening the legislature, government accountability institutions, and public participation in policy-making. Two new programs, initiated in 2007, work to strengthen the multiparty parliament, particularly the oversight committees; assist political parties with internal organization; and bolster links between parliament, local government, and civil society. The ambassador regularly makes statements and appearances at functions sponsored by the Judicial Reform Commission and meets with professional legal organizations and human rights groups. U.S. officials regularly attend court proceedings on key cases involving constitutional protections, human rights, and due process issues as well as media freedom and corruption. A Millennium Challenge Threshold Program, begun in 2007, is intended to enhance the ability of key anticorruption agencies to increase prosecutions of corrupt officials, and strengthen civil society's capacity to demand government accountability. Local NGOs representing indigenous communities and special interest groups, including women, youth, and disabled persons, receive small embassy grants to raise awareness about and to advance their political rights and interests.
U.S. support for the country's 102 female parliamentarians is assisting in advancing antitrafficking legislation. Ongoing U.S. efforts included funding for the drafting of the law, raising awareness of government officials and law enforcement, and a public awareness campaign that included production of a film on trafficking in the country. In March 2008 the ambassador gave a major speech advocating passage of the legislation.
The United States continues to promote a dialogue of peace and reconciliation among civilians in the north. U.S. support for the peace process includes the provision of vehicles for the Cessation of Hostilities Monitoring Team, support for attending African observers, funding for nationwide consultations on accountability and reconciliation, and assistance to ex-combatants and defectors. In September 2007 the United States assisted with the government's effort to replace military personal with civilian police in the north by providing training for a community policing pilot project in Lira. Other ongoing U.S. programs in the north have helped enroll over 13,000 formerly abducted children in schools or vocational training. Two of these programs also target educational interventions for children made vulnerable by conflict or HIV/AIDS.
The United States has also sponsored civil-military relations seminars to promote human rights awareness among UPDF officers and facilitate discussion with civil society leaders. The Ugandan contingent currently deployed to stabilize Somalia has been widely praised for its respect for human rights and for providing assistance to civilians in Mogadishu.
U.S. public diplomacy programs include sponsorship of an awards program for radio journalists, training for media reporting on the peace process, and international visitor programs that expose journalists to the U.S. media environment. In March 2007 American Muslim leaders and U.S. officials discussed religious tolerance and freedom with a wide range of Ugandan Muslims while on a two-week tour of the country. U.S. officials also visit Muslim high schools to share experiences with students in order to promote tolerance and religious freedom. U.S. officials also spoke at national events on the African Day of the Child and Labor Day.