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Uganda's Museveni extends 35-year rule with disputed election win

  • Published at 07:19 pm January 16th, 2021
Uganda
A polling agent from the National Resistance Movement party celebrates the victory of Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni in the concluded general elections in Kampala, Uganda January 16, 2021 Reuters

Museveni won with 58.6% of votes

Uganda's Yoweri Museveni has won a sixth term in office, extending his 35-year rule after an election which took place under heavy security and an internet blackout, and which his main rival said was marred by fraud and violence.

The 76-year-old leader, who took power in 1986, is one of Africa's longest serving presidents, and was accused of crushing the opposition and media ahead of one of the most violent election campaigns in recent years.

Museveni won with 58.6% of votes, seeing off a stiff battle from the former ragga singer Bobi Wine, 38, whose turn to politics fired up a youthful population where three quarters are under 30 years old.

Wine was under heavy guard at his home on the outskirts of Kampala as results were announced, with his party saying he was under "effective house arrest," while the government said it was merely providing him with security.

The singer-turned-MP was among 10 opposition candidates and came second with 34.8% of the votes.

"The electoral commission declares Yoweri Museveni... elected President of the republic of Uganda," said election commission chairman Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama. He said turnout was 57.22 of almost 18 million registered voters.

Byabakama urged the population to "remain calm and accept the outcome of these elections" while reminding those celebrating to be mindful of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Security forces poured into the streets of Kampala after the announcement, with one soldier atop an armoured personnel carrier urging citizens to maintain social distancing as a helicopter buzzed ahead.

Images on state television showed jubilant Museveni supporters in his home district waving flags and cheering, while soldiers in the capital helped marshall motorcycle drivers for a parade -- handing them yellow vests and Museveni posters.

35 years of Museveni

The election took place after one of the most violent campaigns in years, with harassment and arrests of the opposition, attacks on the media and the deaths of at least 54 people.

Wine alleged widespread fraud such as ballot box stuffing and said his party agents had in some places been beaten and chased away from polling stations.

Museveni has ruled Uganda without pause since seizing control in 1986, when he helped to end years of tyranny under Idi Amin and Milton Obote. He is one of Africa's longest serving leaders.

Once hailed for his commitment to good governance, the former rebel leader has crushed any opposition and tweaked the constitution to allow himself to run again and again.

And for many in the country, where the average age is 16 and most have known only one president, Museveni's glory days are no longer relevant or sufficient.

Wine, with his humble origins in a slum and popular songs about economic and social injustice, struck a chord with young people, but observers said the odds were stacked against him with Museveni's powerful grip on the state.

His NUP is however on track to see his newly formed NUP become the main opposition party in parliament, notably winning eight of nine constituencies in the capital Kampala.

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