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Ugandan election: Museveni deploys violent tactics to retain power after 35 years in office

Museveni has ruled Uganda for more than half of its post-independence life


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YOWERI Museveni, a former rebel and incumbent Ugandan President, has ruled the country for 35 years, but he is not ready to give up power as he faces 10 other contestants on Thursday presidential elections. The Ugandan parliament controlled by Museveni’s political party, National Resistance Movement, has changed the age limit for presidential contestants to pave the way for one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders to seek re-election on Thursday.

The age limit was formerly 35-75, but the rubber-stamp parliament has changed the constitution to accommodate the 76-year-old Museveni, who has ruled the country known as a ‘sleeping nation.’

Museveni has been heavily criticised by the country’s younger generation for his dictatorial approach and severe infringement on human rights.

Violence and repression; How Museveni is contesting his sixth term

Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, a 38-year-old singer and actor who was only three years of age when Museveni took over the reins of power, is the closest rival to the incumbent president.

Wine,  a former musician and running candidate of the National Unity Platform (NUP),  is looking to oust the old leader,  pointing at improved health care and education as his major agenda.

However, Wine and his allies have not had it easy following reports of state-sponsored violence against protesters and opposition members.

Earlier in November, Wine was detained at the police custody for two days before he was charged to court over flouting of coronavirus regulations.

After his arrest, there was mass protest by Wine’s supporters that led to the death of many civilians in the country who were demanding for his unconditional release from police detention.

Presidential Candidate of the National Unity Platform (NUP) Bobi Wine.
Photo Credit: The Guardian

Wine, through his official Twitter account, has on several occasions accused Museveni of using the Ugandan army to suppress him and his campaign team.

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Just two days to the election, Wine said that men of the Ugandan army raided his home and took away his security guards after they had also raided the home of his personal assistant, Davie Bwanika, whisking him away to an unknown destination.

A video on social media with more than 90,000 views also shows how men in military uniform violently dealt with a man holding Bobi Wine’s campaign placard.

Less than 24 hours to the election, the government of Uganda has banned the use of social media in the country following a trending hashtag #WeAreRemovingADictator.

“The President warns that if the social media channels like @Facebook and @Twitter are not being friendly and equitable to some of the Ugandans, then there is no reason as to why we should have them operate here,” the government said on its official twitter handle.

Tibor Nagy, assistant secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, said Tuesday that such restrictions undermined human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“We are concerned by reports that the Government of Uganda has ordered Internet service providers to block social media platforms, messaging apps, and select content in the run-up to general elections on Jan 14. Such restrictions undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Nagy noted.

The Ugandan election has raised concerns in the international community as previously held polls have been marred by several electoral irregularities as well as suppression of opposition voters by Museveni, according to the European Union.

The European Union said it would not deploy observer mission to the presidential election because complaints from previous observers to make the polls free and fair had gone unheeded.

“An EOM (election observer mission) will not be present in Uganda in 2021,” Attilio Pacifici, EU ambassador and head of delegation to Uganda, said in a report.

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35 years of governing a nation; present state of Uganda

Museveni was a rebel leader against former dictators of Uganda. He was successful in ousting former Ugandan military dictators Idi Amin and Milton Obote and was praised for ‘restoring peace’ and bringing stability in governance as opposed to the several military coups that preceded his emergence.

Apart from bringing peace to the country, Museveni has been praised by the international community for his tremendous effort in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda. But the praises have turned to curses.

The country’s economy is not progressing. As of 2019, Uganda is among the 20 countries with lowest GDP in the world- its economy stands at $34.683 billion. Appointed officials have been criticised for sleeping during the all-important presidential address.

The three major sources of income for the country are agriculture, industry and service sectors, two of which have witnessed decreases, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.

The agriculture sector declined by 0.2 percent in Q1 of 2020/2021. The food crops and fishing activities registered 0.1 and 3.8 percent declines in Q1 2020/2021 respectively.

The services sector overall value-added declined by 6.2 percent in Q1 of 2020/2021 compared with a growth of 7.7 percent (revised) in Q1 of the previous year. This decline was mainly driven by a decrease in accommodation & food service as well as education activities which registered declines of 24.2 and 20.4 percent in Q1 2020/2021 respectively.

However, year-on-year value added in the industry sector grew by 4.3 percent in Q1 of 2020/2021 compared with a growth of 7.9 percent (revised) in Q1 of the previous year. The manufacturing sector registered a growth of 3.0 percent in Q1 2020/2021 compared with 7.4 percent (revised) in Q1 2019/2020.

In 2015, the Office of the Ugandan Auditor General expressed ‘deep concerns’ over the increase in borrowing to finance the country’s budget.

According to Office of the Auditor General, as of 2015, the country’s debt to the United States stood at $7 billion.

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Data obtained from the World Bank show that only 42 percent of over 42 million population of the Ugandan population had access to electricity as at 2018.

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