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Uganda election victory extends Yoweri Museveni’s grip on power

Museveni’s supporters celebrate his election victory in Kampala on Saturday. Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/ReutersMuseveni’s supporters celebrate his election victory in Kampala on Saturday. Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, extended his 30-year rule on Saturday amid deep controversy as his main opponent was placed under house arrest and international observers dismissed the election result as a sham.

Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, won 60.8% of the vote in presidential elections, while the main opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye, secured 35.4%, according to the country’s electoral commission. Demanding an independent audit of the results, Besigye said: “We have just witnessed what must be the most fraudulent electoral process in Uganda.”

The opposition politician also revealed that he had been placed under house arrest. A Reuters reporter confirmed that Besigye’s house was encircled by police in riot gear and that the media was barred from approaching it.

Museveni, 71, has presided over robust economic growth, but has faced mounting accusations at home and abroad of cracking down on dissent and failing to tackle rampant corruption in the east African nation of 37 million people.

Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party hailed the veteran leader’s victory as proof that “opponents failed to offer any alternative apart from empty promises”. The NRM also urged “all candidates to respect the will of the people and the authority of the electoral commission and accept the result. We ask all Ugandans to remain calm and peaceful and not to engage in any public disruptions.”

Earlier, however, European and Commonwealth observers criticised the handling of the election, which was marred by lengthy delays in the delivery of polling materials, outbreaks of violence and a government shutdown of social media, which is still in place.

The EU observer mission said Thursday’s election had been conducted in an intimidating atmosphere, while Commonwealth observers felt that the poll “fell short of meeting some key democratic benchmarks”.

Eduard Kukan, chief observer for the EU mission, told reporters in Kampala that the poll had been undermined by a “lack of transparency and independence” at the Ugandan electoral commission. “State actors created an intimidating atmosphere for both voters and candidates,” he added.

Even before the results were announced, police encircled the headquarters of the FDC opposition party on Friday as Besigye, 59, met members. After Besigye’s arrest on Friday, his supporters took to the streets, prompting riot police to fire teargas and stun grenades at them, as well as warning shots from automatic rifles.

Besigye’s party is alleging that widespread vote-rigging took place and accuses the government of deliberately stalling the voting in opposition strongholds in Kampala and the neighbouring Wakiso district.

Although Museveni brought calm and stability to Ugandaafter decades of chaos at the hands of Idi Amin and Milton Obote, many opposition voters accuse the former guerrilla fighter of becoming increasingly autocratic and wanting to rule for life.

The opposition had tried to tap into mounting anger among young voters, especially in urban areas, where unemployment is high and many are frustrated by the poor state of schools and hospitals.

The result angered those who felt that Besigye, the former prime minister and confidant of Museveni until a few months ago, would emerge triumphant. “We are disappointed, the election has been rigged,” said 23-year-old Brenda in Kampala, who refused to give her second name due to fears for her safety. “I have never seen another president and it seems it will be like that until he dies.”

In an interview with the Observer, Besigye described Museveni’s attacks on the opposition as those of a man who did not envisage ever leaving power.

Museveni, who was running in his fifth presidential election, came to power in 1986 after waging a 10-year guerrilla war. His regime has seen remarkable strides in the fight against HIV/Aids, an end to active conflict in most parts of the country, and economic growth fuelled by liberalisation and direct foreign investment, although many of these gains have gone into reverse in the last decade. – theguardian –

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