As hundreds of thousands of Ugandans put together to select the nation’s president this week, the stakes couldn’t be increased.
The run-up to Thursday’s vote has been marred by restrictions on campaigning, arrests of opposition figures and lethal violence. No less than 54 folks had been killed in November as safety forces put down protests by opposition supporters.
Longtime President Yoweri Museveni, 76, is going through a robust problem from in style musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine in his bid to safe a sixth, five-year time period in workplace.
Bobi Wine, whose actual title is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, was simply 4 years outdated when Museveni, a former insurgent chief, got here to energy in 1986.
In 2005, Uganda’s ruling-party-dominated parliament eliminated presidential time period limits. And in 2017, lawmakers scrapped the age restrict of 75 for presidential candidates in a transfer slammed by critics as designed to pave the way in which for Museveni to be president for all times.
Free and honest elections?
Opposition candidates in Uganda have contested Museveni’s earlier re-elections, alleging voter intimidation and poll stuffing.
Since getting into politics in 2017, Bobi Wine has been arrested a number of occasions on numerous fees however has by no means been convicted. In current weeks, safety forces have violently dispersed his rallies with tear fuel and rubber bullets, whereas a variety of opposition figures have been arrested and journalists attacked.
Police say their actions are mandatory to make sure compliance with COVID-19 restrictions aimed toward stopping the unfold of coronavirus. However opposition leaders say they’ve been selectively focused.
“If the police has to beat folks to cease them from exhibiting me assist within the hometown of President Museveni, then you realize it’s sport over for the outdated man,” Bobi Wine, who wears a helmet and bulletproof vest on the marketing campaign path and has despatched his 4 youngsters to the US saying he fears for his or her security, instructed supporters throughout a rally final month.
Rights teams have additionally accused the federal government of utilizing the pandemic as a pretext to crack down on critics.
“The authorities have persistently used COVID-19 pointers as an excuse for violent repression of the opposition slightly than to safeguard the democratic taking part in area free of charge and honest elections,” stated Oryem Nyeko, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The Ugandan authorities ought to as a substitute give attention to making certain that the safety forces respect the rule of regulation, are held accountable for abuses, and act in an neutral method,” Nyeko added.
Warning to journalists
Greater than 18 million folks have registered to elect a president amongst a complete of 11 challengers, in addition to members of parliament. To keep away from a runoff, a presidential candidate should garner greater than 50 % of the forged votes.
The electoral fee has arrange 34,684 polling stations in 146 districts, with safety forces deployed throughout the nation.
“All Ugandans which might be taking part within the electoral course of should relaxation assured that we are going to shield and serve them, in a really neutral, honest and clear method,” Inspector Common of Police Martins Okoth Ochola stated in a media briefing on Friday.
“We will ship a peaceable election to all Ugandans and guests to our nation,” he added, whilst he warned journalists that they’d be prevented from heading to areas the place their lives might be endangered.
“You’re insisting you need to go the place there may be hazard. Sure, we will beat you to your personal sake that will help you perceive that you don’t go there. Sure, we will use cheap pressure to make sure that you don’t go the place there’s a danger,” he instructed reporters.
Uganda has one of many youngest populations on this planet, with greater than 75 % of its folks beneath the age of 30. However unemployment, particularly among the many youth, has been working rampant whereas the economic system has been hit arduous by the pandemic.
On the marketing campaign path, each the governing Nationwide Resistance Motion (NRM) and the opposition have promised higher financial alternatives to woo younger voters.
Museveni has been travelling throughout the landlocked nation, commissioning new infrastructure tasks and touting his authorities’s observe file of constructing roads, bridges, hospitals, hydropower dams and industrial parks.
He has additionally portrayed himself as the soundness candidate, warning of insecurity if voters go for the opposite candidates.
“The NRM Social gathering has labored for a united Uganda. We now have fought and rejected tribal and spiritual chauvinism,” Museveni instructed supporters on Friday.
“What issues to us are the pursuits of Ugandans and Africans, by no means their id. We’re certain these credentials will ship victory come January 14th,” he stated.
For his half, Bobi Wine is promising an finish to corruption, 5 million jobs for youth and funding in public companies.
‘The end result will probably be disputed’
Political analysts say candidates are making lofty guarantees that they will be unable to maintain in the event that they win the vote.
“They’re pandering to the feelings of the voters. They’re saying something that may get them the votes that they want. They don’t seem to be disclosing how they will ship their guarantees,” stated Mwambutsya Ndebesa, senior lecturer of historical past and improvement research at Makerere College within the capital, Kampala.
“There isn’t any coverage course or ideology in what they’re saying,” he added, warning of political instability forward.
“The end result will probably be disputed; the opposition thinks the federal government will rig the vote; the ruling occasion thinks the opposition is as much as mischief,” Ndebesa stated. “Each aspect suspects the opposite aspect is not going to play honest. There may be loads of acrimony.”
Regional our bodies such because the Intergovernmental Authority on Improvement and the East African Group have despatched observer missions, however the European Union, which up to now had despatched election displays, didn’t deploy any this time, saying its suggestions to make the polls honest and clear had been ignored.
For his half, outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated in an announcement final month that his nation was “paying shut consideration to the actions of people who intervene within the democratic course of and won’t hesitate to think about critical penalties for these liable for election-related violence and repression”.
Following Hamza Mohamed on Twitter: @Hamza_Africa