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The Ugandan elections : Australian assistance



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M I N I S T E R F O R F O R E I G N A F F A I R S

M150 18 November 1980

THE UGANDAN ELECTIONS : AUSTRALIAN ASSISTANCE

The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr M.J.R. MacKellar, announced today that Australia will join other Common­ wealth countries in providing assistance for the Ugandan elections. Australia will participate in a Commonwealth observer team, and

will also make a financial contribution to help the Ugandan authorities meet the costs of the elections.

The elections, the first to be held in Uganda since 1962, are scheduled to take place on 10 December.

The Military Commission which assumed the powers of the Presidency on 13 May, gave an early commitment to holding free and fair elections and asked the Commonwealth Secretariat for assistance from Commonwealth countries to enable this commitment to be met.

In October Commonwealth representatives in London agreed in principle that the Commonwealth should respond positively to the Ugandan request, subject to the conditions that the principal political parties in Uganda agreed on the ground-rules for the φ elections, and the provision of adequate security for the observers

by the Ugandan government. The Secretary-General invited several Commonwealth countries representative of the Commonwealth as a whole to provide 2 members for a Commonwealth Observer Group.

On 17 November, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth assessed that the pre-conditions had been fulfilled, and so informed relevant governments who decided that Commonwealth involvement could proceed. The Governments also agreed however, that the observer exercise will be called off if at any stage it becomes apparent that the conditions laid down for Commonwealth participation can no longer be met.

The final composition of the observer team is not yet /■ known, but it appears likely that it will comprise observers from Australia, Canada, Britain, Cyprus, Ghana, Barbados, Botswana and possibly India, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. A leader has not yet been appointed. The team is convening in London on 21 November

for briefing by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Mr MacKellar said that the Australian decision to

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contribute to the team and to provide financial assistance to Uganda, reflected the importance it attached to the restoration of liberal democracy in a fellow Commonwealth country. He said the Commonwealth observer team would look forward to the

cooperation of all the political parties contesting the elections. Uganda had, for several years now, been in a state of political and economic turmoil and it was hoped that the holding of elections at this time would enable a return to Parliamentary democracy and to the restoration of necessary peace and prosperity to Uganda.

Mr MacKellar said that the Australian observer will be Mr R.J.C. Whalen, Senior Assistant Secretary in the Commonwealth Electoral Office. Mr Whalen is an experienced electoral officer who has acted as Deputy Chief Australian Electoral Officer, and

as the Australian Electoral Officer, in N.S.W., Victoria and Queensland. He has also been responsible for the conduct of the National Aboriginal Conference elections, and is the Chief Field Coordinator for Australia for the 1981 census.

He will be assisted by Mr D.J. Fisher, an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Mr Fisher, a First Secretary, has served in Indonesia, Burma and Kenya.

The Australian Government will make a contribution of $150,000 towards the cost of conducting the elections and $50,000 towards the cost of the Commonwealth observer team.