Ugandan Opposition Leader Bobi Wine Arrested For Leading Protest

 

 

Photo Credit: Daily Monitor

 

Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine was arrested on Monday as he took part in a protest in the capital, according to a post on his Twitter page.

The 39-year-old popstar-turned-presidential contender last week had called on Ugandans to “rise up peacefully and unarmed” against President Yoweri Museveni who won a sixth term in office following disputed elections in January.

“Bobi Wine arrested as he led MPs and other leaders in a peaceful protest against the abduction, torture and murder of his supporters,” said the post, written by an account administrator.

Around 15 MPs and activists from Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP) political party, wearing business suits and red ties, took part in the brief protest which was quickly halted by police officers and soldiers.

Bystanders cheered their support for the small group of protesters but did not join the demonstration itself.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was first taken to a police station before being driven in a police vehicle to his home outside Kampala which is “now surrounded by police and the military,” his Twitter account said.

Following the January 14 election, Wine was held under effective house arrest for 11 days until a court ordered his release.

Demonstrations against Wine’s arrest in November during the campaign for the poll were brutally dispersed and at least 54 people died.

The police pre-emptively declared Wine’s latest call for protests illegal and warned: “organisers… to desist from participating in any unlawful activities”.

Wine was demanding the release of hundreds of his supporters he alleges have been abducted by security forces since the start of the presidential election campaign late last year.

On Thursday Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for an end to what it called “ongoing abductions by suspected state agents and cease the unlawful detention without trial of opposition supporters”.

Museveni and his ministers have admitted that hundreds of Ugandans are in military detention but say they will either face a military tribunal or be released.

In a television address on Sunday night Museveni referred to people who had been abducted as “children”, described their actions as criminal and accused them of attacking government supporters.

“The children who were arrested by the security forces, many of them have been talked to and they have given us a lot of information and we have helped them to go back to their families,” he said.

-AFP

32 Killed In Uganda Road Accident

The Ugandan Flag

 

Thirty-two people died and five were injured on Tuesday when a truck carrying mourners collided with a car and three other vehicles in Uganda, the Ugandan Red Cross said.

The overloaded truck, carrying mourners and a coffin, collided with a car near Kasese in western Uganda shortly before midnight, according to Red Cross spokeswoman Irene Nakasiita.

“The road is small, it’s under construction and it was dark,” said Nakasiita.

Shortly afterwards, two trucks coming from Kasese ploughed into the crash site and a third coming in the opposite direction, from Bundibugyo, also struck the vehicles and overturned.

“So it made up five cars all involved at the same scene,” said Nakasiita.

Red Cross staff and volunteers worked with Ugandan soldiers to transport the dead and evacuated the five survivors.

Poorly maintained vehicles and unsafe highways are common in Uganda which has one of the world’s highest rates of road traffic accidents.

Fatal collisions are becoming increasingly common and cost the East African nation five per cent of its gross domestic product each year, according to a UN report in 2018.

Uganda Restores Partial Internet After Presidential Elections

People using internet on phones at a taxi waiting area minutes after the Uganda Communication Commission, a body responsible for communications in Uganda, restored the internet in Kampala, Uganda, on January 18, 2021. Internet was partially restored in Uganda on January 18, 2021 after a near-total blackout was imposed across the country on January 13, 2021 ahead of the country’s elections.
Badru KATUMBA / AFP

 

Internet was partially restored in Uganda on Monday almost five days after a near-total blackout was imposed across the East African country ahead of elections the opposition says were rigged.

The gradual easing of internet curbs came as police announced dozens of arrests for alleged election-related violence, and surrounded the headquarters of the main opposition party whose leader is effectively under house arrest.

President Yoweri Museveni extended his 35 years in power in January 14’s election, securing a sixth term with 58.6 percent of the vote.

His main rival, musician-turned-lawmaker Bobi Wine, came a distant second with 34.8 percent. Wine has rejected the results, and decried the election as a sham.

A government spokesman said an unprecedented internet shutdown imposed on January 13 for alleged national security reasons had been lifted.

“The internet has been restored. Other platforms are still under review,” spokesman Ofwono Opondo told AFP.

“We shall go full throttle depending on what happens in the initial phase of opening connectivity… We advise internet users, especially those from the opposition, not to use it to promote hate messages, threats” and intimidation.

 

A man uses a computer to read news at a cyber cafe minutes after the Uganda Communication Commission, a body responsible for communications in Uganda, restored the internet in Kampala, Uganda, on January 18, 2021. Internet was partially restored in Uganda on January 18, 2021 after a near-total blackout was imposed across the country on January 13, 2021 ahead of the country’s elections.
Badru Katumba / AFP

– ‘Planned in advance’ –

Social media access remained patchy in the capital Kampala, where millions of internet users have been unable to send emails, search the web, or use Facebook, WhatsApp and other communication platforms for the better part of a week.

NetBlocks, a non-governmental organisation that tracks internet shutdowns, said network data showed a rise in connectivity in Uganda to 37 percent after all but core infrastructure, regulatory and government networks were switched off.

“This suggests that Uganda’s election shutdown, or at least the procedure under which it was implemented, was planned some time in advance. This has been one of the more orderly nation-scale network blackouts we’ve tracked,” NetBlocks told AFP.

The headquarters of Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP) in Kampala was under police guard Monday in what the opposition leader called a “raid” by security forces.

“Museveni, after committing the most vile election fraud in history, has resorted to the most despicable forms of intimidation,” Wine tweeted.

His lawyer, Benjamin Katana, said he tried to visit his client on Monday but was denied permission. Wine last left his home to vote on Thursday, and his residence is surrounded by police and soldiers.

Uganda police spokesman Fred Enanga said Monday that 55 people had been arrested over the election period for “violent acts” including blocking highways and damaging property.

“Though the polls were peaceful and a success, there were criminal elements that wanted to cause violence,” he said, adding the accused would face court.

– ‘Deeply troubled’ –

The latest official figures Monday show NUP, which was formed less than a year ago, has won 61 parliamentary seats.

The result is unprecedented for an opposition party in Uganda, and cements its place as the lead rival to Museveni’s National Resistance Movement, which has taken 361 seats so far.

Meanwhile the Daily Monitor newspaper reported Monday that thousands of votes at more than 1,200 polling booths were not included in the final presidential election result.

The Electoral Commission said in response that because Museveni received more than 50 percent in the first round it concluded the outcome “would not be overturned by votes” from those outstanding polling stations.

The run-up to the vote was marred by the worst pre-election bloodshed in years, and a sustained crackdown on government critics and Museveni’s rivals.

After Wine was arrested in November at least 54 people were shot dead during two days of street protests. The opposition leader was repeatedly detained and his rallies broken up with tear gas and live rounds.

The United States said it was “deeply troubled” by reports of violence and irregularities in Thursday’s poll, though Museveni declared it the cleanest in Uganda’s post-independence history.

-AFP

Museveni Declared Winner Of Uganda Election

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni shows his ink-marked thumb after casting his ballot at the Kaaroh high school polling station in Kiruhura, Uganda, on January 14 ,2021. Ugandans voted on January 14, 2021 under heavy security and an internet blackout in an election pitting veteran leader Yoweri Museveni against a former popstar after one of the bloodiest campaigns in years.
Badru KATUMBA / AFP

 

Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni has won a sixth term in office, extending his 35-year rule after an election which took place under heavy security and an internet blackout, and which his main rival said was marred by fraud and violence. 

The 76-year-old leader, who took power in 1986, is one of Africa’s longest serving presidents, and was accused of crushing the opposition and media ahead of one of the most violent election campaigns in recent years.

Museveni won with 58.6 percent of votes, seeing off a stiff battle from the former ragga singer Bobi Wine, 38, whose turn to politics fired up a youthful population where three quarters are under 30 years old.

Wine was under heavy guard at his home on the outskirts of Kampala as results were announced, with his party saying he was under “effective house arrest”, while the government said it was merely providing him with security.

Supporters of incumbent Ugandan Presdent Yoveri Museveni celebrate in the streets of Kampala on January 16, 2021. Badru KATUMBA / AFP
Supporters of incumbent Ugandan Presdent Yoveri Museveni celebrate in the streets of Kampala on January 16, 2021. Badru KATUMBA / AFP

 

The singer-turned-MP was among 10 opposition candidates and came second with 34.8 percent of the votes.

“The electoral commission declares Yoweri Museveni… elected President of the republic of Uganda,” said election commission chairman Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama.

READ ALSO: Ugandan Opposition Candidate Bobi Wine Says His Home Is ‘Under Siege’

He said turnout was 57.22 of almost 18 million registered voters.

Byabakama urged the population to “remain calm and accept the outcome of these elections” while reminding those celebrating to be mindful of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Security forces poured into the streets of Kampala after the announcement, with one soldier atop an armoured personnel carrier urging citizens to maintain social distancing as a helicopter buzzed ahead.

 This combination of pictures created on January 11, 2021 shows Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (L) waiting to welcome President of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Felix Tshisekedi prior to his arrival at the state house in Entebbe, Uganda, on November 9, 2019, and Ugandan musician-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi (R), also known as Bobi Wine, waiting for news on his producer and friend Dan Magic, who was severly injured by teargas cannisters and rubber bullets used by police in order to disperse crowds in Kayunga, Uganda on December 1, 2020. Sumy Sadurni / AFP
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, on December 1, 2020. Sumy Sadurni / AFP

 

Images on state television showed jubilant Museveni supporters in his home district waving flags and cheering, while soldiers in the capital helped marshall motorcycle drivers for a parade — handing them yellow vests and Museveni posters.

The election took place after one of the most violent campaigns in years, with harassment and arrests of the opposition, attacks on the media and the deaths of at least 54 people.

Wine alleged widespread fraud such as ballot box stuffing and said his party agents had in some places been beaten and chased away from polling stations.

“Whatever is being declared is a complete sham, we reject it and we dissociate ourselves with it,” he said on Friday.

‘We don’t control them’

Wine’s home remained sealed off by soldiers and police on Saturday, after he told AFP Friday evening that security forces had breached the fence around it and he felt under “siege”.

The army’s deputy spokesman Deo Akiiki said the soldiers were there for “his own security and the security of people around him”.

However the spokesman for Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP), Joel Ssenyonyi told AFP Bobi Wine “is under effective house arrest”.

“People are angry because their vote has been stolen. They don’t need me or Bobi Wine to tell them to get angry… Even we can’t control them.”

Musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, addresses the media at his home in Wakiso, Uganda, on January 8, 2021 to announce his plans to take President Yoweri Museveni to the International Court Commission (ICC), accusing him of crimes against humanity over the past few months. SUMY SADURNI / AFP
Musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, addresses the media at his home in Wakiso, Uganda, on January 8, 2021 to announce his plans to take President Yoweri Museveni to the International Court Commission (ICC), accusing him of crimes against humanity over the past few months. SUMY SADURNI / AFP

 

“The election was not fair,” complained 31-year-old carpenter Dennis Agaba, disappointed at Wine’s loss.

However 35-year-old electrician Dennis Tusiime was happy with the result.

“My grandfather told me about the old regimes,” he said. “He is doing his work. I am very, very happy.”

Tibor Nagy, the top US diplomat for Africa, said on Twitter that the vote was “fundamentally flawed”, citing the denial of accreditation to election observers and “violence and harassment of opposition figures”.

The internet has been down for four days, and government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said the measure was taken due to “abuse, misuse, disinformation, fake news with the overall objective of undermining the integrity of the electoral process including the results… and possibly to cause destabilisation”.

He said the internet would be restored once the threat had passed, possibly on Monday morning.

35 years of Museveni

Museveni has ruled Uganda without pause since seizing control in 1986, when he helped to end years of tyranny under Idi Amin and Milton Obote. He is one of Africa’s longest serving leaders.

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.

An old poster of Uganda's incumbent President Yoweri Museveni is seen on a an utility pole on the eve of Presidential and general elections on January 13, 2021, in Kampala, Uganda. YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP
An old poster of Uganda’s incumbent President Yoweri Museveni is seen on a an utility pole on the eve of Presidential and general elections on January 13, 2021, in Kampala, Uganda. YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP

 

And for many in the country, where the average age is 16 and most have known only one president, Museveni’s glory days are no longer relevant or sufficient.

Wine, with his humble origins in a slum and popular songs about economic and social injustice, struck a chord with young people, but observers said the odds were stacked against him with Museveni’s powerful grip on the state.

His NUP is however on track to see his newly formed NUP become the main opposition party in parliament, notably winning eight of nine constituencies in the capital Kampala.

 

AFP

Uganda Decides: Museveni Closing In On Victory, Bobi Wine Alleges Fraud

This combination of pictures created on January 11, 2021 shows
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni (L) waiting to welcome President of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Felix Tshisekedi prior to his arrival at the state house in Entebbe, Uganda, on November 9, 2019, and Ugandan musician-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi (R), also known as Bobi Wine,. (Photo by Sumy Sadurni / AFP)

 

Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni looked headed for a sixth term as president with election results Saturday placing him firmly ahead of his main rival, who has cried fraud and whose home has been put under heavy guard.

The country’s election commission announced that with 86.7 percent of polling stations reporting results, Museveni had 58.8 percent of votes, while former popstar Bobi Wine had 34.2 percent.

Final results are expected by Saturday afternoon.

Wine, 38, meanwhile was on track to see his newly formed National Unity Platform (NUP) become the main opposition party in Parliament, notably winning eight of nine constituencies in the capital Kampala.

The poll followed one of the most violent campaigns in years, with harassment and arrests of the opposition, attacks on the media and the deaths of at least 54 people.

 

READ ALSO: Ugandan Opposition Candidate Bobi Wine Says His Home Is ‘Under Siege’

 

Thursday’s election took place in apparent calm, but under the oppressive presence of soldiers and riot police and an internet blackout which has now entered its fourth day.

However Wine has alleged widespread fraud such as ballot box stuffing and said his party agents had in some places been beaten and chased away from polling stations.

“Whatever is being declared is a complete sham, we reject it and we dissociate ourselves with it,” he said on Friday.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, promised to provide video evidence once the internet was restored.

Election commission chairman Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama said “the onus is on candidate Kyagulanyi to show how votes are rigged.”

On Friday late afternoon Wine told AFP he felt under threat as soldiers surrounded his home

“They jumped over my fence. They came inside my compound. They are here right now. I don’t know why they’re here. But I’m imagining they are here to harm me. I feel threatened,” said the 38-year-old, who described the invasion as unprecedented and “a siege”.

The army’s deputy spokesman Deo Akiiki said the soldiers were there to provide security and had stopped three people who tried to “access the house”.

Police have advised people not to go out to celebrate or protest when results are announced citing draconian Covid-19 regulations which have regularly been used to crack down on the opposition.

 

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni shows his ink-marked thumb after casting his ballot at the Kaaroh high school polling station in Kiruhura, Uganda, on January 14 ,2021. Ugandans voted on January 14, 2021 under heavy security and an internet blackout in an election pitting veteran leader Yoweri Museveni against a former popstar after one of the bloodiest campaigns in years.
Badru KATUMBA / AFP

– 35 years of Museveni –

Museveni has ruled Uganda without pause since seizing control in 1986, when he helped to end years of tyranny under Idi Amin and Milton Obote. He is one of Africa’s longest serving leaders.

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.

And for many in the country, where the median age is 16 and most have known only one president, Museveni’s glory days are no longer relevant or sufficient.

Wine, with his humble origins in a slum and popular songs about economic and social injustice, struck a cord with the youth, but observers say the odds were stacked against him with Museveni’s powerful grip on the state.

The election took place with no major internation observer mission aside from the African Union, with the United States saying too many of its staff were denied permission to monitor the vote.

-AFP

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.

Refusing To Retire, Uganda’s Museveni Doubles Down On Power

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. GAEL GRILHOT / AFP

 

Yoweri Museveni has been president longer than most Ugandans have been alive, but the ageing leader shows no sign of retiring as he seeks yet again to extend his rule.

Shortly after Museveni took power in 1986, ending years of bloodshed and chaos under murderous tyrants, the young president mused that leaders overstaying their welcome lay at the heart of Africa’s problems.

But nearly four decades later the introspection is gone and Museveni — once hailed in the West as a model African leader committed to good governance — ranks among the world’s longest-serving and, increasingly, authoritarian rulers.

His genial face and penchant for folksy parables belie a past as a wily guerrilla fighter and a ruthless political survivor.

In his 35-year reign, Museveni has fused state and party so effectively, and crushed political opposition so totally, that any serious challenge to either him or his National Resistance Movement is impossible.

Many see his return to office for a sixth straight term after January 14 elections as a foregone conclusion.

 

A file photo of Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni
A file photo of Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni.

 

Three-quarters of Ugandans are under 30, so most of the country has never known anyone else in charge.

At 76 — though some opponents say he is older — Museveni says he is fighting fit, occasionally performing push-ups before crowds and jogging in his office.

In 2020, he joined Instagram and added a childhood name, Tibuhaburwa, to his official title.

Unbound by Uganda’s constitution — it was amended twice to remove presidential term and age limits — many believe Museveni, who never speaks publicly of succession and has broken past promises to stand down, plans to rule for the rest of his days.

– Staying put –

“He will not leave until he has completed his mission of liberating Uganda and Africa… It’s an illusionary and delusional mindset, of course. But he looks at himself as some sort of messiah,” said Moses Khisa, assistant professor of political science at North Carolina State University.

In long, meandering speeches often laced with peasant folklore — he was raised by cattle herders in western Uganda — Museveni has appealed for more time, likening himself to a farmer leaving a plantation just as it starts bearing fruit.

Rarely too does “the old man who saved the country” miss a chance to hark back to his heroics in the bush wars — sometimes exchanging his trademark safari hat and yellow shirt for camouflage fatigues to drive home the point.

It is a favourite reference for the proud military man — but one of dwindling currency, given most Ugandans are not old enough to remember the relative peace and stability that followed the horrors of Idi Amin and Milton Obote.

British journalist William Pike, who interviewed Museveni in 1984, described a man then well-admired with a “faraway look in his eyes as he spoke, the look of a dreamer, a revolutionary”.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni waits for Ethiopia’s Prime Minister before a welcome ceremony at State House in Entebbe on June 8, 2018. PHOTO: Sumy SADRUNI / AFP

 

Museveni studied in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the 1960s when the university acted as a kind of revolutionary finishing school for anti-colonialists.

“He was intensely serious but showed flashes of humour. He encouraged debate although his officers were deferential,” wrote Pike in his 2019 book “Combatants: A memoir of the Bush War and the press in Uganda.”

“Museveni’s confidence infected everyone.”

This extended to the international community, which saw promise in Museveni’s early strides on economic growth, poverty alleviation and combating HIV/AIDS.

– Drift to dictatorship –

A cunning strategist, Museveni also positioned himself as something of an elder statesman and peacemaker in a volatile region — even as his forces were marauding in eastern Congo and backing rebels in other war-torn corners.

His deployment of troops to fight jihadists in Somalia, and open door policy to refugees, won favour from foreign donors who critics say turned a blind eye to his abuses at home and warmongering abroad.

“Museveni has always been brutal, but he’s always had to play this game with the West, so that he continues to get support,” Helen Epstein, author of “Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda, and the War on Terror”, told AFP.

But as the years ticked by the contemplative young rebel leader gave way to an ever-more erratic and uncompromising head of state.

“There were times when Museveni was a persuasive person. He would win over you ideologically, and through discourse. He no longer does a whole lot of that. He increasingly has to rely on money and force,” Khisa said.

Museveni had promised to retire to his cherished herd of long-horned Ankole cattle, but instead has outlasted every ruler on the continent bar Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and Paul Biya of Cameroon.

AFP

Bobi Wine, The ‘Ghetto President’ Rattling Uganda’s Museveni

Photo Credit: Nation Breaking News

 

Ten years ago, ragga singer Bobi Wine, sporting dreadlocks and oversized black sunglasses, regularly appeared in music videos surrounded by women, driving a Cadillac with a joint hanging out of his mouth.

Today the star, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is an MP dressed in dark, tailored suits who is fighting to become president of Uganda in Thursday’s election.

The 38-year-old former pop star has become the main challenger to President Yoweri Museveni, 76, who came to power in 1986 and is the only president that many in Uganda have ever known.

While Wine has been arrested numerous times since 2018, and says he was sometimes tortured, he has accused the regime of going to extremes to crack down on his campaign in recent weeks.

READ ALSO: Uganda Regulator Orders Social Media Shutdown Ahead Of Vote

He has taken to wearing a bulletproof vest and combat helmet on the campaign trail, where his meetings have often ended in a cloud of teargas and with live rounds fired.

The hashtag #WeAreRemovingADictator has spread on social media among the supporters of his National Unity Platform (NUP).

– Fight against injustice –

Wine grew up in one of Kampala’s biggest slums, Kamwokya, where thousands of Ugandans struggle to get by and feel forgotten by Museveni’s government.

While he went on to study music and drama at university and now lives in a better neighbourhood, he still sees himself as the “ghetto president”, a nickname he earned through his songs denouncing social and economic injustice.

His modest origins and youth are key to his popularity in a poor country where 40 percent of voters are under 30 years old and have known no president but Museveni.

 

Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, says President Museveni is attempting to derail his bid to stand in polls scheduled for 2021. AFP

 

As an MP, Wine notably fought against a tax on social media, widely seen as unfair and limiting freedom of speech.

“Having lived in the ghetto he appreciates how the poor like us live,” said supporter and businessman Charles Mbagga, 37, who lives in the Gayaza slum, 15 kilometres (nine miles) north of the capital.

“Bobi Wine is popular because of his message for change, fight against injustice, corruption and unemployment among the poor and the youths.”

He originally hails from the dominant Buganda kingdom — one of several traditional kingdoms which were forced together under colonialism — and is popular there.

“(The) Buganda kingdom is an important factor in the political context of Uganda. Bobi Wine has always been very careful with Buganda, making sure he has them on his side,” said Kristof Titeca, a researcher at the University of Antwerp in Belgium.

But analysts are sceptical over Wine’s capacity to pull off an election win. The country is still traumatised by the tyranny of brutal dictator Idi Amin, who Museveni helped oust, ushering in peace and stability.

Rural areas and some groups like the military remain firmly behind the president.

– ‘Dictatorship in panic’ –

Nevertheless, the regime has shown in recent weeks a certain anxiety towards the young upstart who Museveni has in the past referred to as “our grandson, the undisciplined Bobi Wine”.

In mid-November at least 54 people were killed in clashes with police which were sparked by Wine’s umpteenth arrest. In December a member of the singer’s security team was killed by the army, according to his National Unity Platform (NUP).

At the end of December, election rallies — already restricted to a quick address from the roof of a car — were banned in Kampala and 10 other key districts.

Officially, this was due to Covid-19, but Wine and observers have seen this as a deliberate bid to frustrate his campaign.

“The dictatorship is in panic. They’ve been surprised by the massive enthusiasm and support we’ve been received with in all parts of the country,” Wine wrote on Twitter.

Titeca argues the regime may have shot itself in the foot by cracking down on him, and the repression may help Wine win even more votes.

“The fact he has been able to face that crackdown, people getting killed around him, him not backing down on everything that is happening, it has made him a martyr in a way, somebody who dares to stand up to the current system,” said the analyst.

AFP

Uganda Regulator Orders Social Media Shutdown Ahead Of Vote

A billboard of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni who is running for his 6th presidential term is seen in Kampala, Uganda, on January 4, 2021. – Uganda gears up for presidential elections which is scheduled to take place on January 14, 2021, as President Yoweri Museveni seeks another term to continue his 35-year rule. (Photo by SUMY SADURNI / AFP)

 

Uganda’s communications regulator has ordered the shutdown of social media and messaging applications, ahead of a highly-charged election on Thursday.

The vote will come after one of the bloodiest campaigns in years, as veteran leader Yoweri Museveni seeks a sixth term against popstar-turned-MP Bobi Wine, who has managed to fire up a youthful population that has mostly known only one president.

Wine, who has spent most of the campaign in a bulletproof vest and combat helmet facing teargas, bullets and numerous arrests, on Tuesday urged his supporters to “protect” the election from rigging.

Despite the 38-year-old’s popularity, few observers believe he can pull off a victory against Museveni, a 76-year-old former rebel leader who has ruled since 1986 and effectively crushed any opposition.

Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter were down in the East African nation on Tuesday, after the communications regulator ordered a social media shutdown.

In a letter seen by AFP, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) executive director Irene Sewankambo ordered telecommunications companies to “immediately suspend any access and use” of social media and online messaging platforms.

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An industry insider who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said that the order was first communicated in “nasty and aggressive” phone calls to the telecommunications companies on Tuesday morning.

The calls made it clear the order was retaliation for Facebook deleting pro-government accounts for seeking to manipulate public debate ahead of the election.

Facebook said Monday that the accounts were linked to the ministry of information and technology.

UCC spokesman Ibrahim Bbosa told AFP: “I am not aware of a directive to switch off internet or social media platforms.”

“There has been slow connectivity on the platforms which can be partly due to heavy traffic as a result of the forthcoming elections” he said.

– ‘Guard the vote’ –

Some 18 million voters are registered for the presidential and parliamentary ballot, which takes place after a chaotic campaign.

Journalists covering opposition rallies have been attacked, government critics locked up, and election monitors prosecuted, raising concerns over the transparency of the electoral process.

Two days of protests in November left 54 people dead.

European Union High Representative Josep Borrell said in a statement calling for a credible vote that “the excessive use of force by law enforcement and security agencies has seriously tarnished this electoral process.”

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, told journalists his home had been raided and his staff beaten by security forces on Tuesday morning.

He said the ruling party was trying to scare voters away from the ballot box and urged them to record any abuses or irregularities on polling day.

“We are telling you, you will not be breaking the law when you stay and protect your vote. We encourage you to use your phones, use your cameras. Your phone is a very powerful weapon, that camera is very powerful, use it.”

– Young and free –

Wine’s rise has rattled Museveni, who has outlasted all but two of Africa’s long-serving rulers, and watched as ageing strongmen elsewhere on the continent have been ousted in popular, youth-led uprisings.

Mueveni presides over a population with a median age less than 16, that is increasingly urban and educated.

Though he has campaigned under the slogan “securing your future”, the economic boom enjoyed during his early years has faded.

Only 75,000 new jobs are created each year for the 700,000 youth reaching working age, trapping most in poorly-paid farm labour, the World Bank says.

“We want change. There are no jobs, no money, we can’t go to study and when we go to the hospital, there is no medicine,” said 23-year-old Dorah Wasswa, hawking cheap wares on a pot-holed Kampala street.

– ‘We are too many’ –

A wily strategist, Museveni has outfoxed challengers to remain firmly in control, though analysts say his position is largely assured through patronage and force, rather than popular appeal.

He confronts in this election a divided opposition, with 10 candidates tackling him individually rather than presenting a united front.

Uganda is experiencing a rise in coronavirus cases and the United Nations and rights watchdogs say special election measures to contain the pandemic have been weaponised to browbeat Museveni’s opponents while leaving the ruling party untouched.

Wine says his supporters are “peaceful but assertive” and vows nonviolent protest should the election appear rigged.

“We come with only words. He (Museveni) comes to us with bullets, bombs, grenades and teargas. We are non-violent. We are just too many for him,” Wine told AFP in a recent interview.

 

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.

Facebook Shuts Uganda Government Officials Accounts Ahead Of Election

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. PHOTO: Sumy SADRUNI / AFP

 

Facebook has shut a slew of accounts belonging to Ugandan government officials accused of seeking to manipulate public debate ahead of elections Thursday, the internet giant told AFP on Monday.

The East African nation is holding presidential and parliamentary elections after a tense and bloody campaign, with President Yoweri Museveni, 76, facing a stiff challenge from the pop star-turned-politician Bobi Wine, 38.

“This month, we removed a network of accounts and pages in Uganda that engaged in CIB (Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour) to target public debate ahead of the election,” Facebook’s head of communication for sub-Saharan Africa, Kezia Anim-Addo, said in an email.

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“They used fake and duplicate accounts to manage pages, comment on other people’s content, impersonate users, re-share posts in groups to make them appear more popular that they were.”

Anim-Addo said the network was linked to the ministry of information and communications technology.

“Given the impending election in Uganda, we moved quickly to investigate and take down this network.”

Social media giants have come under increasing scrutiny over the content they allow to spread on their networks.

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook blocked US President Donald Trump over incitement to violence after his supporters stormed the US Capitol last Wednesday, a move his backers see as an assault on free speech.

Museveni’s senior press secretary Don Wanyama, who saw both his Facebook and Instagram account shut down, accused the company of seeking to influence the election.

“Shame on the foreign forces that think they can aid and plant a puppet leadership on Uganda by disabling online accounts of (ruling party) NRM supporters,” he said on Twitter.

“You won’t take away President Kaguta Museveni” he added, using the president’s second name.

Museveni’s online account is still active but many government officials and members of the ruling party have seen their pages taken down, including a well-known blogger and Museveni supporter, a prominent doctor and a senior official in the information ministry.

The president has long accused foreign organisations and elements of backing Wine in a bid to remove his government.

 

– Misleading behaviour –

The term Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour was invented by Facebook, which describes it as when “groups of pages or people work together to mislead others about who they are or what they are doing”.

The tech giant explains on its website that this is often linked to deceptive behaviour rather than content.

Anim-Addo said over 100 such networks seeking to manipulate public debate have been removed worldwide since 2017.

In December, networks managed from Russia and France — one linked to the French army — were deleted over accusations of interference operations in Africa.

And in October Facebook shut down the page of a conspiracy-fuelled political party in New Zealand accused of spreading disinformation about the coronavirus ahead of elections there.

In the wake of last week’s protests in Washington, tech giants Amazon, Apple and Google have all cut ties with Parler, a social media platform popular with some conservatives, likely to leave it without a hosting partner.

Uganda’s election has been marred by numerous arrests of opposition candidates and their supporters, as well as violence which saw at least 54 killed in protests in November.

Wine has a strong following among the poor and a young population who have known only the 35-year reign of Museveni, but the powerful incumbent is seen as almost impossible to unseat.

Boat Capsizes In Uganda, Leaves 26 Dead

Men ride a boat in the waters of Dal Lake during the sunset in Srinagar on December 25, 2020. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP
PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE STORY: Men ride a boat in the waters of Dal Lake during the sunset in Srinagar on December 25, 2020. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP

 

At least 26 people died when their boat sank on Lake Albert, which marks the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ugandan officials told AFP on Friday.

The boat was carrying passengers between two Ugandan locations in the lake’s northeast on Wednesday when it “hit a strong wind” and “went under water”, local official Ashraf Oromo said.

“The boat had over 50 people on board, 26 bodies have been recovered, 21 people were rescued,” Oromo said.

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“A search is ongoing and no more survivors are expected.”

A regional police marine officer, Samuel Onyango, confirmed the accident.

“Because of failure to adhere to safety measures and fast changing weather patterns, Lake Albert has many accidents,” Onyango said.

Eighteen people drowned when two boats capsized in separate incidents in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in June.

 

AFP