By Paul Ndiho
Uganda’s electoral commission declared President Yoweri Museveni the official winner of the 2016 Ugandan presidential election. But the country’s main opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change has rejected Mr. Museveni’s victory.
Uganda’s longtime leader President Yoweri Museveni won a disputed presidential election, cementing his 30-year hold on power in the East African nation. His win comes amid heavy criticism of the voting process by local and international electoral observers.
President Museveni won nearly 61 percent of the vote, while his main challenger Kizza Besigye secured 35 percent, according to Ugandan Electoral Commission Chairman Badru Kiggundu.
“Total number of votes cast in his or her favor being more than 50 percent of the valid votes cast at election. The commission declares Yoweri Kaguta Museveni elected president of the Republic of Uganda at the presidential election held on 18th February 2016.”
Eduard Kukan, Chief Observer for the European Union mission, criticized the ballot process and says the election was conducted in an intimidating atmosphere and that the nation’s electoral commission is not independent.
“According to our assessment, electoral commission lacks independence, transparency and the trust of the stakeholders. It knowingly interpreted its mandate by limiting it to the organization of the technical aspect of the elections. Moreover the commission lacked transparency in its decision and failed to inform the voters and contestants on key elements of the electoral process in a timely and comprehensive manner.”
Observers also questioned the government’s motive in deploying security forces throughout the country during and after the elections. The government says it did so to ensure a peaceful outcome. But some voters dispute that, saying the government was trying to intimidate them.
“Museveni has not won, the election was not free and fair, they have brought the army here, policemen here, they are trying to threaten people and we don’t know why.”
Opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who has been detained multiple times since the election results were announced, has now called on his supporters to protest the election.
“If the regime continues to restrict me, to detain me in my home illegal as it is, I call upon all of you citizens to protest this, at the very minimum let us also stop them from moving. And our people should remain firm, should remain strong. This is our country. We must have rights in our country. We must be treated with dignity in our country.”
The opposition had tried to tap into mounting support among young voters, especially in urban areas, where unemployment is high and many are frustrated by the poor state of schools and hospitals. But the ruling National Resistance Movement party says Museveni’s victory shows that the opposition failed to offer any serious alternative governing plan, apart from empty promises.
Although President Museveni, 71, has presided over a period of strong economic growth, he is accused by critics at home — and abroad — of repressing dissent through intimidation and failing to tackle rampant corruption in the nation of 37 million people.