Bobi Wine, the Ugandan pop star turned politician, was under house arrest on Saturday after losing the country’s presidential election. President Yoweri Museveni extended his nearly 35-year grip on power, winning a sixth term, following an election marred by widespread accusations of fraud and violence, as well as an internet shutdown.
“No one is allowed in my house,” Wine said. “The military has completely taken over. I don’t know what is going to happen to me and my wife in the next minute. “Wine called for the intervention of the president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.” I want the world to know that he [Museveni] must be held accountable. “
Museveni, 76, garnered 59% of the vote, his lowest turnout since taking office in 1986, but Wine, whose official tally was 34%, claimed to have video evidence showing vote manipulation and that the vote had been undermined by “violence fraud”. On Friday he dismissed the first results showing Museveni at the helm, saying: “The people of Uganda voted en masse for the change of leadership from a dictatorship to a democratic government.”
The electoral commission could not explain how votes from across the country were transmitted during an internet blackout, simply telling reporters in Kampala that “we designed our own system.”
Voter turnout was just 52%, the lowest since Museveni came to power, a reflection of the dangerous political atmosphere created by state authorities since the campaign began in November.
More than 55 people died during the November riots after Wine was officially confirmed as a candidate, and he has been detained and prevented from campaigning numerous times.
Members of his party and other opposition figures have been targeted and arrested, often allegedly due to demonstrations held in violation of Covid-19 restrictions. Helicopters and tanks have patrolled the skies and emptied the streets of Kampala and other cities.
At least 30 Ugandan election observers were arrested on the eve of Thursday’s vote and remain in detention, with many condemning the reports of fraud, intimidation and irregularities.
However, the African Union (AU) observer teams, which have been reluctant to criticize Museveni, were cautious. The head of the AU team, Samuel Azuu Fonkam, told reporters that his mission was “limited” and concentrated mainly in the capital, Kampala. When asked about Wine’s tampering allegations, he said he couldn’t “talk about things we didn’t see or observe.”
The East African community observer team said that while there was “disproportionate use of force in some cases” by the security forces, the polls “demonstrated the level of maturity expected of a democracy.”
The EU, the United States and the UN had previously refused to monitor the elections after several officials were denied accreditation.
Peter Mwesige, director of the African Center for Media Excellence, said the scope of voter fraud and violence at the polls would be slow to emerge.
“We know there have definitely been credible reports of fraud, but it is going to be much more difficult and it will take us many more days to begin to understand the meaning and scope of it,” he said. “The shutdown of the Internet stole the transparency process that is required of an election. Basically, it has been an environment that does not qualify for one to call it free and fair elections. “
Museveni has presided over steady economic growth and progress in healthcare and infrastructure since he came to power after the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin. However, Uganda remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with growing inequality and high youth underemployment.
The veteran leader has faced mounting accusations at home and abroad of cracking down on dissent, while increasing political patronage and corruption in the East African nation of more than 40 million.
A population with an average age of 16 has grown less in love with his stature as the leader rescuing the country from Amin, and although he retained power, his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party has suffered significant losses.
Thirty MPs from Uganda’s ruling party, including many in Museveni’s cabinet and the vice president, lost their seats, largely to younger opposition figures from Wine’s National Unity Platform party.
According to Mwambutsya Ndebesa, an academic at Makerere University, Kampala, the results indicate long-term challenges for the Museveni administration. “For a person who has been the starter and has all the organizational factors in his favor, it seems that this victory was not easy,” he said. “To me, it seems that the legitimacy of NRM is [down],” he said.
A galvanized opposition has drawn massive support from many in Uganda and across Africa, drawn by Wine’s populist and anti-establishment message, which criticizes inequality, political patronage and autocratic leaders. Wine has repeatedly branded Museveni a dictator.
The message has appeal on a continent with the world’s youngest population and leaders increasingly changing constitutions to maintain their grip on power.
On the streets of Kampala, Museveni supporters were jubilant to receive the certificate from the Ugandan electoral commission confirming the victory of their leader.
Justine Lumumba, secretary general of the ruling NRM, said: “I want to thank the Ugandans for deciding who should lead us. I’m so happy.”
Pockets of NRM supporters, in party attire and yellow colors, came out whistling and beating drums to celebrate, despite the Covid-19 ban.
“We are happy that President Museveni has won. He was voted on based on his key achievements and achievements, ”said an excited Becky Adeke in Luzira, a suburb of Kampala.
But even she acknowledged that the country was facing problems. “You have to focus on fighting some of the vices that have caused people to rebel and rebel. Corruption must be addressed, the government must support and provide quality education and health services to the population. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism