As the results of one of the bloodiest elections in Uganda in recent times begin to trickle in, the main opposition candidate, 38-year-old Bobi Wine from the National Unity Platform (NUP) has alleged “the worst rigging this country has ever witnessed.”
After the counting of 29.4% of the votes cast under heavy security deployment on January 14, the election commission said around 11 a.m local time that 76-year old President Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), incumbent since 1986, had an early lead with 63.9% of the votes, while Wine trailed with 28.4%.
The pop star-turned-politician, Bobi Wine, whose house is reportedly surrounded by the military, has refuted the results. “I am very confident that we defeated the dictator by far. I call upon all Ugandans to reject the blackmail,” he said.
He alleged further that the “illegal, high-handed actions” of the government against the opposition in the run up to elections had “set stage for the worst rigging this country has ever witnessed.”
None of these military intruders is talking to us. We are in serious trouble. We are under seige.
— BOBI WINE (@HEBobiwine) January 15, 2021
A week before the election, the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights had raised serious concerns that the COVID-19-related lockdown was being selectively used by the government to curb the campaigns by opposition parties.
Wine’s campaign was subjected to repeated attacks by security forces, mass-arrests and even alleged torture of the arrested companions under detention. His personal bodyguard was killed after being run over by a military vehicle. Forces also attacked journalists to prevent them from covering opposition campaigns.
Kizza Besigye, the main contender against Museveni, in the previous four elections said, “The terror, frankly, is unprecedented. Violence, terror seem to be scaled up with every coming election. This election has witnessed untold violence. It gets worse and worse by the day.”
“It doesn’t feel as though the country is going into an election,” said Nicholas Opiyo, a human rights lawyer. “It feels as though the country is at war.”
The EU, the UN and other international observers who usually monitor elections were denied permission, and have raised concerns about the transparency. The African Union (AU) is reportedly the only international organization to have sent in monitors.
Charity Ahimbisibwe, who heads an election observer group based in Uganda, was reportedly arrested on Friday while meeting a journalist in the capital city, Kampala. AP reported that she was held at a police station and “was yet to be informed of the charges.”
An election official has said in response to Wine’s allegations that the onus is on him to prove the rigging. “I will be happy to share the videos of all the fraud and irregularities as soon as the internet is restored,” Wine told Reuters.
The internet, which was blocked on Wednesday, a day after shutting social media sites, is yet to be restored. Wine has indicated that street protests will follow if Museveni happens to hold on to power through alleged electoral fraud.
For now, however, the streets of the capital city Kampala, patrolled by soldiers, wear a deserted look as shops remain shuttered on January 15, which was declared a public holiday.
Ahead of the elections, while talking to Peoples Dispatch, Milton Allimadi, the founder and publisher of Black Star News, referred to earlier instances of rigging and said that if the government stole the election, the question would boil down to if it would resort to that level of atrocities to maintain power.