By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda accused the European Union of meddling on Friday after the bloc's parliament recommended sanctions over a crackdown and arrests of opponents around President Yoweri Museveni's disputed re-election last month.
In power since 1986, Museveni was declared winner of the presidential poll with 59% of votes, but his main rival - pop star and lawmaker Bobi Wine - rejected the ballot as fraudulent.
On Thursday, the EU parliament passed a resolution saying the election was not democratic, police and soldiers used excessive force, and detainees should be released.
"Asking Uganda to release suspects already before the courts of law is tantamount to undue interference with a legitimate judicial process," government spokesman Ofwono Opondo told Reuters in response.
"We consider its resolution against Uganda as unbalanced and unobjective, the motive of which we are yet to establish."
Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has challenged the results at the Supreme Court. During the campaign, security forces dispersed his rallies with teargas, bullets and beatings.
The government cited violations of anti-coronavirus measures as justification and accused Wine's camp of destabilisation. At least 54 people were killed in November and some 600 detained.
"The election process was not democratic and transparent," the EU resolution said. It condemned the security forces for brutality and interference in politics and chided the government for using COVID-19 as an excuse for repression.
"Sanctions against individuals and organisations responsible for human rights violations in Uganda must be adopted," the lawmakers said in a recommendation to the 27-nation bloc's executive.
Museveni, 76, has long been a Western ally, receiving copious aid flows while deploying his military to trouble spots like South Sudan and Somalia. His longevity in power and treatment of opponents have, however, caused increasing anger abroad.
The EU lawmakers' call followed a similar plea from two U.S. congressmen who asked Washington to impose sanctions on seven Ugandan security officials for alleged rights violations.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)