In his stead, leading opposition candidates among the ten people challenging Yoweri Museveni for the presidency have been teargassed, arrested, and blocked from campaign meetings.
“I wake up with people and by the end of the day they are in prison, hospital, or dead,” the NUP’s candidate Bobi Wine said on January 7th, citing the fact that he had begun that particular day with 25 people and was now sitting next two. The other 23 — arrested earlier that day — were from Wine’s replacement campaign team after his first one was arrested on New Year’s Eve.
During the January 7th press conference on Zoom, where Wine and his lawyers announced they had filed a complaint against President Museveni at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the opposition candidate was repeatedly harassed by a police officer while he sat in his car.
- He was first pulled out of the car after arguing with the policeman over whether parking by the side of the road is an offence, and then stopped from stopping to fuel. Throughout the hour-long presser, a police man sitting at the back of a different car repeatedly fired teargas canisters.
- Hours earlier, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate, Patrick Oboi Amuriat, and his driver had been arrested and taken to court for reckless driving.
- In another part of the country, the Democratic Party’s Nobert Mao’s police bodyguards were in a guns drawn face off with regional police over a roadblock.
Such scenes have always characterised Uganda’s multiparty elections, where the campaigns of Museveni’s rivals suffer death by a thousand cuts.
Security forces have justified many of the crackdowns, arrests, and roadblocks to implementing COVID-19 protocols, although opposition candidates have accused President Museveni of holding similar events in the guise of state tours and project inspections.
Wine’s ICC filing centres on a state crackdown on protests after Wine was arrested in November 2020 that left more than 50 people dead, which the opposition candidate and his lawyer said is proof of “systematic government action” amounting to crimes against humanity.
President Museveni changed the constitution twice to extend his rule; in 2017, a chaotic parliament voted to remove age limits, the last hurdle to his running in the 2021 polls. In the 2021 elections, his ruling party National Resistance Movement (NRM) has partly leaned on both its revolutionary past and doubled down on messaging as the only side able to keep Uganda stable and secure. Its campaign slogan promises that a vote for the party’s candidate is “Securing the Future.”
In their campaigns, both sides of the divide are appealing to Uganda’s relatively young voting population, most of whom have lived under a Museveni presidency, and for some a Besigye-led opposition as well, since birth. The age issue, or rather Museveni’s long rule and its attendant brutality, are Wine’s foremost issues.
Like other opposition candidates, he has promised to restore term and age limits, and release political prisoners who now include his close aides and supporters.
- In October 2020, Wine referenced Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, while saying that although Museveni has done “some good things”, “his time has expired.”
Despite Wine’s inexperience, his entry into politics rattled Ugandan politics particularly because he is young and charismatic, a combination one observer termed as “a rarity in Ugandan politics” in 2018.
He was first elected to parliament in 2017 but quickly turned his unlikely victory in a nascent national movement by supporting candidates in other elections, and leading protests against a new “social media tax.”
Museveni, on the other hand, has indirectly acknowledged the excitement around Wine’s candidature, comparing it to the election of George Weah in Liberia. In January, he said Liberians had “…out of excitement…voted for a famous footballer but it didn’t take them even a year to regret,” he said in January.
Museveni’s hashtag #SecuringYourFuture
Radio stations and TVs.
December letter to Google to shut down 14 YouTube channels.
Fake news, such as the Uganda police calling out claims that Nubian Mutwe and Eddie Mutwe had been tortured in detention.
It is a lawful procedure undertaken when suspects are being processed for court and for future criminal record purposes.
We remain committed to observing the rights of all suspects, even when in custody. https://t.co/J5h6kb3s1P pic.twitter.com/qL61hT1H2R
— Uganda Police Force (@PoliceUg) January 2, 2021
As late as August, a parliamentary committee was trying to revive a plan to extend the term of parliament to seven years.
Understand Africa's tomorrow... today
We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.View subscription options