Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni has won a sixth term in office, extending his 35-year rule after an election that took place under heavy security and an internet blackout, and which his main rival said was marred by fraud and violence.
The 76-year-old leader, who took power in 1986, is one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents and was accused of crushing the opposition and media ahead of one of the most violent election campaigns in recent years.
Museveni won with 58.6 percent of votes, seeing off a stiff battle from the former ragga singer Bobi Wine, 38, whose turn to politics fired up a youthful population where three quarters are under 30 years old.
Bobbi Wine was under heavy guard at his home on the outskirts of Kampala as results were announced, with his party saying he was under “effective house arrest”, while the government said it was merely providing him with security.
The singer-turned-MP was among 10 opposition candidates and came second with 34.8 percent of the votes.
“The electoral commission declares Yoweri Museveni… elected President of the Republic of Uganda,” said election commission chairman Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama.
He said turnout was 57.22 of almost 18 million registered voters.
Byabakama urged the population to “remain calm and accept the outcome of these elections” while reminding those celebrating to be mindful of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Security forces poured into the streets of Kampala after the announcement, with one soldier atop an armored personnel carrier urging citizens to maintain social distancing as a helicopter buzzed ahead.
“Whatever is being declared is a complete sham, we reject it and we dissociate ourselves with it,” he said on Friday.
‘We don’t control them’Wine’s home remained sealed off by soldiers and police on Saturday after he told AFP Friday evening that security forces had breached the fence around it and he felt under “siege”.
The army’s deputy spokesman Deo Akiiki said the soldiers were there for “his own security and the security of people around him”.
However the spokesman for Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP), Joel Ssenyonyi told AFP Bobi Wine “is under effective house arrest”.
“People are angry because their vote has been stolen. They don’t need me or Bobi Wine to tell them to get angry… Even we can’t control them.”
“The election was not fair,” complained 31-year-old carpenter Dennis Agaba, disappointed at Wine’s loss.
However 35-year-old electrician Dennis Tusiime was happy with the result.
“My grandfather told me about the old regimes,” he said. “He is doing his work. I am very, very happy.”
Tibor Nagy, the top US diplomat for Africa, said on Twitter that the vote was “fundamentally flawed”, citing the denial of accreditation to election observers and “violence and harassment of opposition figures”.
The internet has been down for four days, and government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said the measure was taken due to “abuse, misuse, misinformation, fake news with the overall objective of undermining the integrity of the electoral process including the results… and possibly to cause destabilization”.
He said the internet would be restored once the threat had passed, possibly on Monday morning.