President Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) was on January 16, 2021, declared the winner of the Ugandan presidential election. According to the Ugandan electoral commission, Museveni won the poll for the sixth term with 58.6 per cent of the vote. His closest rival, Bobi Wine has vehemently refused to accept the results. Wine claimed that the election was the most fraudulent in the history of Uganda. Besides, there were allegations of altering the constitution, human rights abuses and violence against his opponents during the exercise.
With this victory, Museveni has joined the growing league of Africa’s sit-tight leaders. Museveni has ruled Uganda since 1986. The election was generally trailed by allegations of highhandedness by agencies of the state against the opposition and independent election monitors.
Foremost civil society group, Human Rights Watch, alleged that weeks leading up to the elections were characterised by widespread violence and human rights abuses. According to the organisation, there were killings by security forces, arrests and beatings of opposition supporters and journalists, disruption of opposition rallies, and a shutdown of the internet.
On November 28, 2020, opposition candidate, Bobi Wine, was arrested for allegedly violating COVID-19 protocols during his campaign. The candidate and his party, the NUP, however dismissed the arrest as a clear agenda to stifle their ability to campaign rather than in keeping with COVID-19 protocols. The abuses and violence were said to have left more than 40 people dead.
Apart from vote rigging and victimisation, the opposition candidate was placed under house arrest after the military surrounded his home. Bobi Wine also accused security forces of blocking access to his party’s head office in Kampala, days after the poll. He also accused Museveni of putting him “under siege.” However, the President has countered the allegation and stressed that the votes had been machine-counted, and that the poll “may turn out to be the most cheating-free election in the country since 1962.”
We condemn all acts of violence and intimidation during the election and call for a thorough investigation of such electoral infractions. Election in Uganda and elsewhere on the continent should not be a “do-or-die” exercise but an expression of the people’s will in choosing their leaders.
The continued confinement of Bobi Wine and his supporters is a blatant violation of their human rights and must be lifted immediately without any conditions. The January 14 poll in Uganda is a litmus test for democracy in Africa. The controversial outcome is a bad enough for democracy on the continent. This poses serious challenge to Museveni, 76, who started on a good note to the point of being celebrated by the West, as the new face of Africa at a time.
With the election over, we urge the Ugandan government to open up the democratic space and accommodate those with opposing views. It is now time for healing and political inclusion for the development of the country. Going forward, the supporters of the opposition candidate and other human rights activists languishing in jail should be released.
We call on all the political parties to eschew violence while all the issues arising from the exercise are being addressed. Everything must be done to save Uganda from anarchy. Peace and development of the country should be the concern of all Ugandans.
Above all, there is need for transparent succession plan in the country and other parts of Africa. The era of sit-tight leaders in Africa should be done away with. Henceforth, the Constitution of the country should not be altered at will to serve the interest of anybody or group.
There must be clear-cut term limit to avoid the perpetuation of one person in office. Africa’s sit-tight leaders should quit when the ovation is loudest. Museveni and his counterparts in Africa should be thinking of those who will succeed them.