President Yoweri Museveni won a landslide victory extending his 35-year-rule in a contentious Ugandan election, fuelling concerns of an erosion of democracy after a campaign marred by violence and an internet shutdown.
The electoral commission on Saturday said official results showed Mr Museveni secured 58.6 per cent, while Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, received 34.8 per cent.
Mr Wine has said he would challenge the results. “Whatever is being declared is a complete sham,” he said. Electoral officials said the singer-turned-politician should prove his allegations of vote rigging, which he said he would do once internet access is restored.
On Monday, Facebook shut some Ugandan government accounts for seeking to manipulate public debate ahead of the elections, drawing anger from Mr Museveni and his retinue who, on Wednesday, ordered an internet and social blackout.
Mr Museveni, a former rebel fighter who has been in power since 1986, said that the shutting down of social media was “unfortunate but unavoidable, there is no way anybody can come and play around with our country to decide who is good, who is bad”.
The electoral commission’s chairperson, Simon Byabakama, has said the relaying and tallying of results would not be affected by the internet shutdown, adding they will use other systems to transmit the results. On Friday, Mr Wine told reporters in Kampala: “The regime, in an unprecedented manner, moved to switch off the internet completely. If they had nothing to hide, why keep the citizens and the world in the dark?”
Charity Ahimbisibwe, national co-ordinator of Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda, an observer group, said she was arrested while meeting a journalist in Kampala and explained there were some irregularities during the election.
“The problems with the process became the shutdown of the internet, cause the people couldn’t have free information flow of what was happening at the different places. The blackout created suspicion, then it was the issue of the observers not having leeway and the international observers withdrawing,” she explained, referring to the EU and the US, which decided not to send observers.
The lead-up to the poll was marred by violence as critics said Mr Museveni was reluctant to give up on power. Mr Museveni said that 54 people died in “senseless riots”, while Mr Wine countered that more than 100 people were gunned down by security forces in November. He himself was beaten, arrested, and shot at several times, he added. On Friday, he said his house “was under siege” from security forces.
The police told local media they have surrounded Mr Wine’s home to give him security because he’s a presidential candidate and dismissed accusations of a siege. “He is not under arrest, we are just providing security in the area,” said police spokesman Luke Owoyesigire.
Mr Wine has also alleged there was vote rigging, adding “every legal option is on the table” to challenge the official results, including peaceful protests. “I am very confident that we defeated the dictator by far. I call upon all Ugandans to reject the blackmail. We have certainly won the election and we’ve won it by far,” he told journalists on Friday. Capital Economics said in a note on that “the risk of further violence lingers” which, it said, could weigh on the economy, making it difficult for the government to service its external debts, which amounts to around 34 per cent of gross domestic product.
In a show of strength, security forces paraded armoured cars through the streets of Kampala earlier this week. On Saturday, eyewitnesses said there was a widespread security deployment across the capital.
“This was an election that was held amid extreme fear,” said Maria Nassali, a human rights law lecturer at Makerere University. She added that “it’s highly unlikely” that violence will follow the results “because all good people are aware that the government has the capacity and the willingness” to repress supporters of the losing candidates.