The 2021 elections in Uganda have historic significance as the sovereign people will decide whether President Yoweri KagutaMuseveni (called by the people M7) will win a sixth term and continue his 35-year rule in the country or he will be ousted by his rival Bobi Wine (real name: Robert Kyagulanyi), a rapper turned lawyer and after politician. These elections were preceded by unprecedented violence and harassment perpetuated by the police against opposition candidates and their supporters, dozens of them killed; by an exploitation of the health rules of Covid19 pandemic prevention (valid only for the opposition) and by strict control both national and foreign independent media. The violence of the police during the election campaign was unprecedented. On the eve of the vote, the country was blocked, militarized with a lot of army divisions in war gear on the streets of the capital Kampala and in the main cities.
As expected, yesterday’s election day was marked by various irregularities, arbitrary arrests and threats aimed at ensuring victory at all costs to the Old Man (Yoweri Kaguta Museveni). Some polling stations did not open for nearly two hours and the queued voters got angry and started shouting at polling gate officials as the cause of the delay was unclear, reports BBC’s Patience Atuhaire from the capital, Kampala. Obviously, the seats that have been delayed in opening correspond to the neighbourhoods where the support for the opposition candidate Bobi Wine is almost total.
Before the vote, the electoral commission banned the creation of alternative vote-counting centres. This measure, combined with the refusal of international observers and the boycott in the presence of opposition representatives at the polls, clarifies theOld Man intentions who periodically submits himself to the will of the voters and then adjusts the results with electoral fraud and popular repression. Over 100 supporters of the Platform of National Unity are being held in various detention centres across the country. Police say many of those arrested belong to youth brigades involved in criminal activity before and during the elections. Bobi Wine got around the obstacle by asking all of his supporters to photograph the ballot papers they filled out with their mobile phones before leaving the polls and depositing it in the electoral boxes. This trick was carried out in the greatest secrecy to avoid the risk of the police confiscating the mobile phones.
The blocking of internet access is creating serious problems not only for citizens but for the Electoral Commission itself. In addition to not being able to connect online, people even have trouble sending SMS text messages. Earlier this week, authorities ordered the blocking of social media, messaging apps, and some sites for virtual private networks (VPNs) that people use to bypass social media blocks. Ugandan authorities allegedly ordered internet providers to shut down the entire network at 19:00 local time on the eve of the elections. In the letter drawn up by the Uganda Communications Commission, Internet providers are ordered to “implement a temporary suspension of the operation of all Internet gateways and associated access points“. Small detail: the letter does not indicate when the suspension should end. Internet access advocacy group Access Now has urged telecom providers to challenge the order, saying they should be “human rights promoters, not “power gatekeepers“.
Due to the blocking of the internet, the new biometric system for verifying people’s identity does not work in some areas. There are serious doubts about how the results from all over the country will be transmitted to the Kampala National Counting Centre without the Internet. The electoral commission told the BBC it has systems to do so, but has not provided any further explanation. The biometric system was introduced to reduce the risk that foreigners could vote by receiving false electoral cards from the ruling party NRM. The failure that has arrived seems like a godsend for the Elder who normally uses citizens of South Sudan and Congo to increase his votes, making them pass for Ugandan citizens.
When the counting of the votes began, new army and police unitsarrived in Kampala to strengthen the departments already deployed, ready to intervene in case of demonstrations, obviously not authorized, taking the excuse of Covid19. Sharpshooters of the police and army have been stationed on the roofs of the main streets of the capital ready to “bring down any subversives“. Dressed in military uniform, Tuesday evening President Museveni gave a stern warning during a televised speech: “If you try to disturb the peace, the fault will be yours. The security forces, following the law, are ready to deal with any troublemaker.”
The government assures the international community that the elections were held in a calm atmosphere and are free and fair. The United States, which questioned the electoral process and withdrew its election observers after most of their accreditation requests were denied by Museveni, differ. In response, Presidential spokesman Don Wanyama joked at the White House statements by tweeting: “I don’t remember when Uganda last sent election observers to the United States.”
The United Nations also warns that the prevailing political conditions in Uganda do not allow for free, fair and transparent parliamentary and presidential elections. The spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights RavinaShamdasani says the deteriorating human rights situation in the country is a sinister signal if the prospect of popular demonstrations arises. “Numerous human rights violations have been reported, including rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and participation, as well as arbitrary deprivation of life, arbitrary arrests and detentions and torture. … Indeed, the harassment, mistreatment, arbitrary arrests and detention of opposition candidates and supporters were troubling developments during the election campaign“, Shamdasani told international media. The UN Human Rights Office Calls on the Ugandan authorities to protect the rights of peoples to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and urges them to take measures to prevent electoral violence and to guarantee people’s rights to participate freely and peacefully in the electoral process.
Diplomatic sources say that the first data collected by Bobi Wine through mobile phone photos would show that he managed to obtain a high percentage of preferences that could force the Elder to confront himself in a second round of voting as he would risk not reaching the quorum of votes 50 % +1 expected to secure him victory in the first round. Various regional observers suspect heavy electoral fraud to avoid the second round if the votes for Bobi Wine get an overwhelming majority.
The Army (Uganda People’s Denfence Force – UPDF) is united in defending the Old Man. Selected units of the army have already surrounded Bobi Wine’s private residence protected by his supporters. Three days ago the military broke into his house and beat one of his bodyguards. Police have barred Bobi Wine from conducting his election campaign in the last five days before the vote. With authorities restricting his movements, Wine spent most of her time at his home on the outskirts of Kampala. The first provisional results should be announced on Saturday 16 January. In these militarized elections, however, the conditional is a must.
The fear of heavy electoral frauds seems to be confirmed with the first partial results given by the Electoral Commission which awarded Museveni 61.31% of the votes and Bobi Wine 27.9%, according to the Turkish Press Agency ANADOLU. The figures were later confirmed by the BBC. Although they concern only 30% of the seats, the provisional figures have already been harshly contested by the opposition candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, who defined them as the result of the worst electoral fraud in the history of Uganda. Bobi Wine said the struggle for democracy has just begun, declaring himself President elected by the people. Less than 24 hours after the vote there are already all the elements for a serious political and social crisis in the country. Everything will depend on the will and popular determination to turn the page after 34 years of the Old Man’s power.
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