Ugandans Vote In Charged Election Under Internet Blackout

(COMBO/FILES) This combination of pictures created on January 11, 2021 shows
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni (L) and Ugandan musician-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi (R), also known as Bobi Wine. (Photo by Sumy Sadurni / AFP)

 

Ugandans began voting in a tense election Thursday under heavy security and an internet blackout as veteran leader Yoweri Museveni pursues a sixth term against a former pop star half his age.

The internet went down on the eve of the vote, with some parts of the country reporting complete disruptions or significant slowdowns, after one of the most violent campaigns in years.

Museveni is seeking a sixth term in office, having ruled for almost four decades, against singer-turned-MP Bobi Wine, 38, whose popularity among a youthful population has rattled the former rebel leader.

In the Kamwokya slum, where Wine grew up and is hugely popular, voters streamed to a polling station as police tried to enforce social distancing after weeks of surging coronavirus cases in the East African nation.

A group of about two dozen riot officers marched past, with heavy military and police presence in other parts of the capital.

“I am here to change the leadership of this nation because for years they’ve been telling me they will secure my future. They have not done that,” said driver Joseph Nsuduga, 30, one of the first in line to vote.

“I need to see change for my children. People are yearning for change but we are seeing nothing.”

Voting was delayed in several locations in the capital Kampala, beginning about half an hour after the official starting time of 7am (0400 GMT). Polls close at 4pm (1200 GMT).

Some 18 million voters are registered for the presidential and parliamentary vote, and results are expected by Saturday.

Museveni has ruled Uganda without pause since seizing control in 1986, when he helped to end years of tyranny under Idi Amin.

Once hailed for his commitment to good governance, the former rebel leader has crushed any opposition and tweaked the constitution to allow himself to run again and again.

The run-up to polling day was marred by a sustained crackdown on Museveni’s rivals and government critics, and unprecedented attacks on the nation’s media and human rights defenders.

In November, at least 54 people were shot dead by security forces loyal to Museveni during protests against one of Wine’s numerous arrests.

On Wednesday armoured-personnel carriers with mounted machine guns patrolled parts of Kampala and army helicopters and surveillance drones flew over the teeming capital where the political opposition has traditionally enjoyed support.

The energetic and often genial Museveni is active on social media such as Twitter — where he released an exercise video to help citizens stay fit during lockdown — and retains support among voters such as Ceria Makumbi, 52.

“He has brought security to our country… He built hospitals, roads and brought Uganda to an international standard,” the businesswoman told AFP.

– Little oversight –
The US, EU, UN and global rights and democracy groups have raised concerns about the integrity and transparency of the election.

Only one foreign organisation, the African Union (AU), has sent monitors, along with an AU women’s group.

On Wednesday, the United States, a major aid donor to Uganda, announced it was cancelling a diplomatic observer mission after too many of its staff were denied permission to monitor the election.

In a statement, US ambassador Natalie Brown warned the refusal meant the election “will lack the accountability, transparency and confidence” brought by independent oversight.

On Tuesday, Museveni announced the suspension of social media networks and messaging services like Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp in response to Facebook closing accounts linked to government officials the tech giant said were spreading misinformation.

Wine is the strongest of 10 opposition contenders trying to unseat Museveni.

But most observers expect the ageing president and his ruling National Resistance Movement to emerge victorious.

He has never lost an election, and has been counting down the days to victory in confident campaign advertisements, promising to invest more in infrastructure, health and education and build Uganda’s economy.

But Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has accused the president of presiding over corruption and failing to deliver jobs.

– Generation gap –
The population has a median age of just less than 16, and many Ugandans have never known anyone but Museveni in charge.

In Kamwokya Cate Nabbale, 20, a primary school teacher, voted for the first time.

“I am so excited … I want to see Uganda growing, things changing,” she told AFP.

Wine has vowed non-violent street protests should Ugandans feel the election was stolen.

The opposition leader has urged them to turn out in large numbers and vote, saying they should not fear intimidation by the authorities.

Museveni has warned his opponents against taking to the streets.

“If you use violence to protest against an election result, that is treason,” Museveni said in a national address Tuesday.

35 Years Under Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda

 

President Yoweri Museveni, who is seeking re-election in Uganda Thursday, took power at the head of a bush army in 1986 and has ruled ever since, making him one of the world’s longest-serving leaders.

Rebel to Ruler

As a young rebel leader, Museveni helps topple dictator Idi Amin in 1979 before retreating to the bush to wage a guerrilla war against his repressive successor, Milton Obote.

Shortly after ousting the government and taking power in 1986, Museveni declares: “The problem of Africa in general, and Uganda in particular, is not the people, but leaders who want to overstay in power.”

Museveni receives early praise for returning some stability and prosperity to Uganda, which after years of coups, violent tyrants and civil war is among the world’s poorest countries.

He is returned to office in 1996 in the country’s first direct presidential election since independence from Britain in 1962.

Darling of the West

Uganda’s economy grows rapidly in the 1990s as Museveni undertakes sweeping reforms, pleasing foreign donors and financial lenders keen to sponsor a burgeoning African success story.

Museveni’s early successes combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic and reducing poverty burnish this image in the West as a modern African leader committed to good governance.

But his moral standing takes a particular hit when Uganda and Rwanda invade Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) twice in the late 1990s. Both armies are later charged in The Hague with looting Congo’s resources, killing and torturing civilians and using child soldiers.

Museveni would also be accused of supporting rebels in the region — an allegation that would resurface time and time again during his long tenure.

Broken promises

In 2001, Museveni defeats his main opposition rival Kizza Besigye at the ballot box, and commits to standing down at the next election.

But instead, he changes the constitution in 2005 to do away with presidential term limits.

The following year — his 20th in power — he defeats a popular Besigye again in a vote marred by violence and irregularities.

That same year, the Lord’s Resistance Army is largely driven out of northern Uganda after a grinding and brutal 20-year insurgency — although Ugandan troops hunt the rebel leadership in Sudan, DRC and Central African Republic for another decade.

Museveni pleases Washington — a close friend which has provided Uganda billions in foreign aid — by sending troops to serve under the US in Iraq and to Somalia, where they form the backbone of an African Union mission to confront the Al-Qaeda linked jihadists Al-Shabaab.

Drift toward autocracy

In 2010 the UN accuses Ugandan troops of war crimes in eastern Congo. Kampala threatens to withdraw its peacekeepers from Somalia, South Sudan, Darfur, Ivory Coast and East Timor — a trump card it would use again in future when accused of further meddling in DRC.

Museveni wins a fourth term in 2011 over Besigye, who again decries the vote as a sham. Not long after, security forces are deployed to violently suppress major street protests as food and fuel prices soar and the economy teeters.

Ugandan troops fight alongside South Sudan’s forces as the new country descends into civil war in 2013. At home, the crackdown on critics intensifies, with radio stations taken off air and newspapers raided for airing suggestions Museveni is grooming his son for succession.

In 2014, Museveni signs a controversial anti-homosexual bill into law, drawing resounding criticism from around the globe, and attracting US sanctions and a freeze on EU donor funds.

– President for life –
“I am not power-hungry, but mission-hungry” Museveni said in 2015, describing the economic transformation of Uganda as his only purpose, and vowing to return to cattle-keeping should he lose the election the following year.

But he won that, too, and proceeded in 2017 to change the constitution once more. This time he removed age limits for presidential candidates, clearing his path to run for a sixth term in 2021, aged 76, and reinforcing fears he plans to rule for life.

However, the veteran leader faces an energised campaign by a young opposition upstart called Bobi Wine, a musician-turned-MP who openly calls Museveni a dictator, and blames the endemic corruption under his rule for contributing to Uganda’s high youth unemployment and bleak economic outlook.

Museveni, whose increasingly violent reprisals against Wine have drawn global condemnation, has accused outsiders and “homosexuals” of backing the neophyte opposition leader, and is expected to win the January 14 vote that observers say will be neither free nor fair.

President Museveni Of Uganda Visits Buhari

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda is in Abuja on a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari.

The East African country President and President Buhari are currently in a private meeting inside the Presidential Villa.

Museveni is in the country with his wife, Janet who was received by Aisha Buhari.

 

Details later…

Israeli PM Remembers Brother Killed In Entebbe Rescue

NetanyahuIsraeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, began an African tour on Monday, attending a memorial service at Entebbe Airport in Uganda where his commando brother was killed rescuing hostages 40 years ago – an event which he has said shaped his future.

Lt. Col Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu led an assault team of 29 commandos who stormed the terminal in 1976 to rescue Israelis and others who had been on board an Air France flight diverted to Uganda by Palestinian and German hijackers.

“I am touched to stand in this place, this very place, where my brother, Yoni, fell,” the Prime Minister said at Entebbe Airport. “Entebbe is always with me, in my thoughts, in my consciousness, deep in my heart.”

The old building where the hostages were held still stands, but a new terminal now serves the airport at Entebbe, which lies a few miles from the capital Kampala.

Some former Israeli commandos involved in the raid also attended the ceremony.

The Prime Minister’s elder brother was the only Israeli soldier killed in the 1976 raid. The hijackers, three hostages and dozens of Ugandan soldiers died.

More than 100 mostly Israeli hostages were freed. Ugandan autocrat Idi Amin, in power at that time, broke ties with Israel after the raid.

“My brother’s death changed my life and directed it to its present course,” he said in an interview with Newsweek in 2012.

Speaking on Monday before talks with President Yoweri Museveni, Netanyahu said, “Exactly 40 years ago, Israel soldiers carried out a historic mission in Entebbe.

“Forty years ago they landed in the dead of the night in a country led by a brutal dictator. Today we landed in broad day light in a friendly country led by a president who fights terrorists.”

Uganda has been targeted by Somali Islamist group, al Shabaab, which has said it wants to drive out Ugandan and other soldiers fighting with an African Union peace force in Somalia.

Netanyahu was accompanied by an 80-strong delegation of Israeli business executives from more than 50 companies.

After talks with Museveni, he was to attend a summit with leaders from Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Zambia.

“Africa is a continent on the rise. Israel looks forward to strengthening ties with all its countries,” he said.

After Uganda, the Israeli Prime Minister travels to Kenya where Israel provides training for the security forces and has other investments.

“Israel is a critical partner to Kenya, with its development assistance in security and defense, agriculture and particularly irrigation are important investments here,” Kenyan presidential spokesman, Manoah said ahead of the visit.

The tour will also take Netanyahu to Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Western Envoys In Uganda Walk Out Of Museveni Swearing-In

Museveni
Uganda President, Yoweri Museveni

There was mild drama at the Ugandan President’s inauguration in the capital Kampala where western delegations attending the ceremony walked out in protest.

US, European and Canadian diplomats left abruptly when Mr Museveni began making disparaging comments about the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The US State Department says they had also objected to the presence of Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir at the ceremony. Mr Bashir is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide.

Thursday’s inauguration – the fifth since Mr Museveni took power in 1986 – was attended by leaders from Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

In his address, Mr Museveni described the ICC as “a bunch of useless people” saying he no longer supports the institution.

Yoweri Museveni Wins Uganda Presidential Election


UgandaPresident Yoweri Museveni has won a fifth term in office in the just concluded presidential elections in Uganda.

The electoral commission said that he won 60.75 per cent of the vote while his main opponent Kizza Besigye polled 35 per cent.

President Museveni will now serve another five years in office, having already been in power for 30 years.

According to BBC, supporters of the 71-year-old said that his opponents had failed to offer any chance of progress.

However, Mr Besigye, who was under house arrest, maintained that the election results were a ‘sham’, calling on the international community to reject them.

“We have just witnessed what must be the most fraudulent electoral process in Uganda,” he said in a statement.

The election observers from the European Union have also criticised the election.