Uganda: Museveni Concludes another Electoral Coup, Unleashes Mayhem on Political Opponents, Internet

President Yoweri Museveni is set to extend his rule over Uganda to four decades, after he was announced winner of the January 14 general elections that had been characterized by the arrest of opponents and their supporters, the killing of close to sixty Ugandans and a decision to switch off the internet.  

The electoral body said President Museveni had won the vote with 58.6 per cent, while his closest challenger, pop star turned politician, Robert Kyagulanyi who is popularly known by his stage name Bobi Wine, got 34.8 per cent.

Bobi Wine has since come out to contest the result over what he says was widespread fraud, which has prompted security forces to lock him in his home.

 

Young Bobi Wine, the political shooting star who has become King Museveni's nightmare (C) Peoples Dispatch

“Everyone including media and my party officials are restricted from accessing me,” he says.

Security forces say the decision to arrest Bobi Wine and keep him in his home was intended to block him from accessing his supporters, as he is likely to instigate protests.

Bobi Wine, who recently shipped his children to the state of Texas in the United States of America over the fear of the Uganda government harming them, also says he and his wife have run out of food.

Bobi Wine also decried the “heavily armed militia and police” that raided his political party’s office in Kampala.

“No one is allowed to go in or come out. Museveni after committing the most vile election fraud in history has resorted to the most despicable forms of intimidation,” he says.

Bobi Wine’s views have been backed by different institutions including UN Watch, a non-governmental organization based in Geneva. UN Watch monitors the world body, defends human rights, and fights dictatorships and double standards.

“Congratulations to Uganda President Yoweri Museveni on winning re-election after murdering, imprisoning and silencing opponents, shutting down the internet and committing widespread voter fraud,” UN Watch twisted.

President Museveni militarised Uganda heavily ahead of the general elections (C) The Guardian

Uganda has also been criticized for switching off the internet and forcing the country to carry out an election in the dark. Uganda first switched off social media two days before election day, with President Museveni coming out to say his government had taken the step to retaliate against Facebook.

Facebook had days earlier blocked the accounts of some supporters of President Museveni who were accused by the tech giant of using fake and duplicate accounts to commit fraud on the social media platform. Most Ugandans, however, used VPN to circumvent the social media blockade as this was expected since the government of President Museveni first did this during the 2016 general elections.

With so many Ugandans circumventing the blockade of social media and google play store, where supporters of Bobi Wine were supposed to be picking the ‘U vote’ app to monitor the elections, the government then implemented a nationwide internet shutdown on the eve of election day around 16 hours GMT.

According to NETBLOCKS internet connectivity fell up to 12 per cent, and stayed at that level for five days, until January 18.

Bobi Wine quickly became a threat to Museveni because of his age & global appeal (C) CNN

The internet has since been partially restored, but according to Juliet Nanfuka who oversees research and communications at Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), social media and VPN are still blocked.

Internet blockade has generally been criticized by several people, but Crispin Kaheru, an independent elections observer says it did reduce the spreading of false information that had become an epidemic in the run-up to the election.

Mr. Kaheru says that false information affected the elections, since in places like Karamoja which is in the northeastern part of Uganda, there were reports that people were told only President Museveni would be voted on January 14. Supporters of other candidates, including Bobi Wine, were told their opportunity to vote would be days later, after January 14. As Karamoja is the least developed part of Uganda, with very few social services, some in the populations reportedly believed the false news.  

On the negative side, Mr. Kaheru says the internet blockade affected the ability to receive information by election observers, the media, candidates, and the electoral commission lowering the quality of the election in general.

On biometric machines that were reported to have malfunctioned across the country, Mr. Kaheru says this was on account of election officers failing to operate the machines, which he blamed on lack of education.