Uganda’s president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, has been declared winner of the country’s controversial election putting him on a journey to extend his rule to 40 years.
A number of opposition candidates led by Museveni’s closest rival Robert Kyagulanyi a.k.a Bobi Wine, 38, have disputed results of the polls following the most violent campaigns in the country since Museveni, 76, took power in 1986 promising a fundamental change.
To put it in context, Museveni’s declared win means his presidency has outlived those of six US leaders and will coincide with a seventh when Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20. Museveni is older than 80% of Uganda’s youthful population who have only known one president.
Bobi Wine, a popstar turned politician, came second in the official tally and has been confined to his home by government security forces since the Jan.14 polling day. The police and military are in charge of who can visit and have made arrests and blocked journalists and other officials.
A similar tactic was used by Uganda’s security forces when they confined then leading opposition candidate Dr Kizza Besigye at his home for over three months under the infamous preventive arrest. Dr Besigye who was charged with treason, punishable by death on conviction, was unable to beat the strict constitutional deadline to challenge the results of the elections in the country’s Supreme Court. The trial has not commenced five years later.
It is not yet clear whether Bobi Wine, who has called the process fraudulent, will challenge the election in court and if he will be allowed to collect and present the evidence beyond what he says he already has to support his case. Since 2001 verdicts by the country’s highest appellate have found that irregularities in the process but stopped short of nullifying the results. All high ranking positions in government including judges have been appointed by Museveni as a result of his long stay in power.
Bobi Wine has urged Ugandans to reject the official results of the election and use peaceful and lawful means to challenge outcome. Ugandan authorities have, however, warned that any insurrection or protests will be crashed. In November, an uprising following the arrest of two candidates turned deadly after security forces opened fire on protestors and rioters.
Bobi Wine’s party, the National Unity Platform, which is barely a year old put up an impressive performance especially in the country’s central region wiping out almost all president Museveni’s ministers and legislators from the ruling party including the country’s vice president. If Bobi Wine’s party take up their seats in the House, they lead the opposition.
A costly internet switch off remains in place with the opposition and other citizens struggling to communicate or do business in the information black out. Reports indicate the network will be restored on Jan.18 at the earliest.
A team of 26 election observers arrested on Jan.14 remain in police custody after police raided what the force said was an illegal attempt to set up a parallel tally center. While the US and the European Union, officially, stayed out of observing the polls, the EU ambassador in the country gave the polls a clean bill of health to the consternation of many.
Sign up to the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief here for news and analysis on African business, tech, and innovation in your inbox