Museveni wins poll amid fraud charges
International observers denounce election process as untransparent and prejudiced as opposition leader placed under house arrest during vote
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni extended his 30-year rule yesterday, winning an election that international observers said lacked transparency and one that his main opponent, who was placed under house arrest, denounced as a sham. One of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, Museveni won 60.8% of the vote, while main opposition candidate Kizza Besigye – a four-time presidential contender and the Forum for Democratic Change’s candidate – garnered just 35.4%, according to the electoral commission.
“We have just witnessed what must be the most fraudulent electoral process in Uganda,” Besigye said, calling for an independent audit of the results.
Museveni’s disputed win gives him another five-year elective term, setting the incumbent on course to lead Uganda for a cumulative 35 years of uninterrupted rule since 1986.
Besigye said he had been placed under house arrest, and a Reuters reporter saw his house encircled by police in riot gear and media were barred from going near it. On Thursday afternoon, Besigye was detained briefly in Kampala for alleged criminal trespass and assault.
A senior official with Besigye’s party said he had been leading a crowd of supporters to a building where he complained that ballot stuffing was under way. Police said Besigye’s claims were unfounded and outrageous.
The US condemned his arrest, and US state department spokesperson John Kirby said it called into question Uganda’s commitment to a transparent election that was free from intimidation.
European Union (EU) observers have also criticised the poll, saying the governing party had created an “intimidating atmosphere”. While praising the “remarkable determination” of Ugandans to vote, EU chief observer Eduard Kukan said the governing National Resistance Movement’s “domination of the political landscape distorted the fairness of the campaign”.
Voting was delayed in some areas, especially in the capital, and sporadic violence was reported in some areas, while access to social-media sites such as Twitter and Facebook was blocked for much of the day, frustrating voters.
On Friday morning, voting resumed in a handful of areas where delays in delivering polling material had prevented some people from casting their ballot.
“It’s our right to vote,” said Geofrey Were (32) as he stood waiting for the second successive day in the Ggaba neighbourhood of Kampala. “This man has ruled us for 30 years. Obviously we need a change.”
While Museveni has presided over economic growth, critics – especially the young – accuse him of not tackling corruption, of acting increasingly like an autocrat and of not creating jobs.
OVER A Ugandan policeman struggles to keep hold of
a box containing
voting material as excited voters surround him after waiting for more than
seven hours without being able to vote at a polling
station in Ggaba, on the outskirts of
Kampala, Uganda, on