On eve of Ugandan elections, presidential contender Bobi Wine faces renewed persecution

Bobi Wine, the leading opposition candidate, has continuously faced attacks and repression in his attempt to unseat long-term president Yoweri Museveni in the elections that will be held on January 14

January 13, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Uganda 2021 Presidential-Candidates
Candidates for the presidential elections in Uganda scheduled for January 14. (Photo: Red Pepper)

On Wednesday, January 13, Ugandan presidential contender Bobi Wine tweeted that his private security was forced to withdraw from his home a few hours before. He also said that most of his campaign team had been arrested. The previous day, he had announced that his house was raided.

Meanwhile, the government has banned social media sites Facebook and WhatsApp ahead of the elections citing Facebook’s arbitrary closure of government-related accounts.

The elections for the office of president and for the 426-seated parliament are scheduled to be held on January 14. Wine is seen as the main contender against long-time president Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), who is seeking his sixth term in office. Museveni has been president since 1986. Nine other candidates are also in the fray.

38-year-old Wine, whose original name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, is a music star-turned-politician. He is extremely popular among young voters seeking change. Wine and his National Unity Platform have been subjected to different forms of harassment and violence by the authorities since the day he filled his nomination for the election. He was allegedly beaten up by the security forces on several occasions and also arrested in November which led to massive violence. At least 37 people were killed by the security forces while they were trying to oppose Wine’s arrest.

Speaking to Peoples Dispatch, Milton Allimadi, founder and publisher of Black Star News, said that Museveni ‘s authoritarian regime had thought it had suppressed all forms of dissent but had not predicted the rise of the youth. Referring to multiple instances of rigging in past elections as well as the possibilities of the same in Thursday’s process, he said the question may boil down to if the regime was willing to commit that extent of atrocities to maintain power.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has already expressed concerns over the Ugandan government’s violent crackdown on the opposition and their supporters. The government has argued that the action against Wine was taken due to his constant violations of COVID-19 related restrictions. However, the opposition, as well as the UNHCR, has pointed out that the COVID-19 regulations are being selectively used by the government to curb the opposition’s campaign.

Uganda has over 38,000 recorded cases of COVID-19 and over 303 deaths so far. 

Museveni ‘s government had amended the constitution to remove the term and age limits for the presidency to enable him to contest again.

Uganda, a country of over 43 million people, has a large youth population. For victory in the presidential election, a candidate needs to score a minimum of 50% plus one vote to avoid a runoff. There are a total of 18.1 million registered voters in Uganda.