Ugandan President Museveni wins sixth term as vote rigging alleged

Supporters of incumbent Ugandan Presdent Yoweri Museveni celebrate in the streets of Kampala on January 16, 2021.
Supporters of incumbent Ugandan Presdent Yoweri Museveni celebrate in the streets of Kampala on January 16, 2021. © Yasuyoshi Chiba, AFP
9 min

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni won a decisive re-election victory on Saturday, elections officials said, but his main rival Bobi Wine alleged widespread fraud and said citizens should reject the result.

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Museveni won 5.85 million votes, or 58.6 percent, while main opposition candidate Wine had 3.48 million votes (34.8 percent), the electoral commission said at a news conference on the final results from Thursday's election.

The United States and an African election monitoring group complained of election irregularities and Wine, a 38-year-old singer-turned-lawmaker who had rallied young Ugandans behind his call for political change, called the results a "complete fraud”.

"It’s an election that was taken over by the military and the police," he said in a phone interview from inside his home in the capital, Kampala, which was surrounded by soldiers who he said had forbidden him from leaving.

"It further exposes how dictatorial the Museveni regime is," added Wine, who campaigned to end what he called widespread corruption. "It's a mockery of democracy.”

Ugandan opposition candidate Bobi Wine barred from leaving home: FRANCE 24's Grainne Harrington
02:55

The army's deputy spokesman, Deo Akiiki, told Reuters that security officers at Wine's house were assessing threats he could face by going out: "So they might be preventing him in the interest of his own safety."

After the results were announced, many neighbourhoods in normally bustling Kampala were unusually quiet as nightfall approached. Soldiers and police who had patrolled throughout the day remained on the streets in large numbers, witnesses said.

Hundreds of the president's supporters rode motorcycles from the election tallying centre to downtown, where people danced with posters bearing the president's face.

Museveni, 76 and in power for 35 years, campaigned for another term arguing his long experience in office makes him a good leader and promising to keep delivering stability and progress.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, galvanised young Ugandans with his calls for political change and pledged to end what he calls dictatorship and widespread corruption.

On Friday, Wine said he had video proof of voting fraud and would share the videos as soon as internet connections were restored. The government ordered the internet shut down the day before the election, and the blackout was still in place.

Electoral Commission Chairman Simon Byabakama said on Friday that under Ugandan law, the burden of proof rested with Wine.

Reuters has not independently verified Wine's claims.

No EU or US observers

The Africa Elections Watch coalition, which deployed 2,000 observers in 146 districts, said in a statement that they had observed irregularities, including the late opening of most polling stations, missing ballot papers and illegally opened ballot boxes.

The African Union and East African Community sent observer teams to the election, but neither group of officials responded to requests for comment about possible irregularities.

The European Union and the US did not deploy observer teams, but the US State Department’s top diplomat for Africa, Tibor Nagy, said in a tweet early on Saturday that the "electoral process has been fundamentally flawed".

He cited fraud reports, denial of accreditation to observers, violence and harassment of opposition members, and the arrest of civil society activists.

Police recorded 42 election-related offences nationwide during voting and tallying so far, police spokesman Fred Enanga said on Friday night on local NBS TV. Offences included assaults, voter bribery, and theft and damage of electoral materials, he said.

The run-up to Thursday's election was more violent than in previous polls. Security forces cracked down on opposition candidates and their supporters during the campaign, and more than 50 people died in protests in November on one of the multiple occasions when Wine was arrested.

Parliamentary wins

In addition to the internet blackout, the government on Tuesday banned all social media and messaging apps. Wine and his supporters often used Facebook to relay live coverage of his campaign.

In the parliamentary election, where candidates were vying for 529 seats, results were still coming in but Ugandan media reported that 56 candidates from Wine's National Unity Platform (NUP) had won their races, while the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), previously the largest opposition party, had so far won 34 seats.

The country's vice president, Edward Ssekandi, was one of a number of senior ruling party lawmakers who lost their seats, according to broadcaster NTV Uganda.

The FDC won 35 seats in the 2016 election, but the NUP had no seats in the previous parliament – Wine was elected as an independent and joined the party last year.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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