20 February 2016

Uganda: Kampala Quiet but Tense After President Museveni Declared Uganda Poll Winner

Photo: Tendai Marima/Daily Vox
Early morning voters at Pioneer Mall.

In power for 30 years, President Yoweri Museveni has been declared the winner of the presidential vote in Uganda. DW's Ole Tangen Jr reports that the capital Kampala, an opposition stronghold, remains quiet but tense.

Shortly after 4 p.m. local time on Saturday in Kampala, Dr. Badru Kiggundu, the chairman of the Ugandan Electoral Commission (EC), declared President Yoweri Museveni, already in power for 30 years, the winner of the Thursday's poll - giving him an additional five-year term.

According to the Commission, Museveni won 60.8 percent of the vote and his main challenger Kizza Besigye got 35.4 percent.

The election on Thursday was marred by delays in the delivery of election materials, especially in Kampala. In addition, around five percent of the votes cast were declared invalid. The EC is yet to release the final tally of votes with regard to the exact number per polling station and district - something activists and opposition candidates have been demanding.

The main opposition candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, has rejected the results calling the elections the "most fraudulent electoral process in Uganda."

Besigye under house arrest

Besigye remains under house arrest at his home outside of Kampala after police raided his party headquarters on Friday and arrested party officials. This was his third arrest in the four days preceding the election. "I call upon all Ugandans and the international community to reject and condemn the fraud that has been committed and to expose it to the fullest extent possible," Mugisha Muntu, the FDC president, said in a statement.

International reaction

Earlier in the day, European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) observers offered their initial analysis of the election. Both bodies stated that the polls lacked the transparency and independence necessary for a true democratic election.

Eduard Kukan, chief observer for the EU Mission, told reporters in Kampala that the police actions during the run-up to the elections created a tense atmosphere in the country.

"State actors created an intimidating atmosphere for both voters and candidates," he said.

According to the State Department, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone with Museveni on election day to discuss the security situation and "to underscore that Uganda's progress depends on adherence to democratic principles in the ongoing election process."

Uganda has been a strong ally of the US in the region in recent years. Ugandan troop are on the ground in Somalia fighting Al Shabab militants. The country also receives around $750 million dollars (xx million euros) of aid from the US every year.

Ugandans react

Throughout the city, the announcement was met with shrugs. Many Ugandans had predicted the result but still turned up to vote in large numbers, feeling that it was their civic duty to vote.

"People have lost trust in the system and the government. I am just a villager and we fear that the government will raise taxes and make life harder for us Ugandans," said James Odeka, a waiter in Kampala.

The election was also marked by the government's blackout of social media sites. It is reported that over one million Ugandans downloaded virtual private networks (VPNs), apps and other tools to bypass the blackout.

Ugandans are prolific users of social media and the hashtag #UgandaDecides was trending worldwide all week as users tracked the situation in Uganda as it unfolded.

Soon after the results were released, many Ugandans were discussing the somber mood in the city on social media. One Twitter user observed that there was little celebration in the east African country following the announcement that Museveni had won.

"The silence after the announcement of the presidential election is deafening," he wrote.


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