I predicted that Museveni would get 55% of the popular vote and claim victory without a runoff in Uganda’s elections, and that the opposition would declare the vote rigged and respond with increasingly intense protest. I was off by 4% – Museveni is reported to have received 59% of the popular vote, though his party concedes that he lost Kampala, northern and eastern Uganda. It’s almost irrelavent whether international observers declare the voting free or fair as the situation leading up to the vote was so grossly unfair, with major opposition candidate Kizza Besigye harrassed with every tool the Museveni government had at its disposal.
That said, it’s incumbent upon global leaders not to let Museveni slip quietly into his third term and third decade of leadership. Voter, press and candidate intimidation before the poll were widespread. Abraham McLaughlin, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, talks about being threatened – perhaps in jest, perhaps not – by Museveni’s media officials. Nart Villeneuve reports that the website of Radio Katwe, an independent, anti-government radio station, has been blocked within Uganda. The radio station was prevented from broadcasting during the elections by Uganda’s ministry of health, who cited laws against campaigning within 48 hours of the election.
(The station was reporting, not campaigning. And they were reporting that Bessigye had narrowly won the election. Nart points out that the ham-handed censorship – most likely performed by Uganda Telecom and South African phone company MTN – blocked 657 unrelated web sites that shared the same IP address. Uganda Telecom offers the completely false claim that they couldn’t have blocked the site, as the site is hosted in Japan. All they had to do is add one IP address to the blacklist on the gateway routers at UT and MTN…)
The Guardian newspaper describes Uganda as being in “turmoil” after the election results. It’s unclear at this point whether Besigye will fight in court, or whether his supporters will fight in the streets. In the meantime, I can only echo Bill from Jewels in the Jungle:
the people of Uganda will have to wait ’til the cows come home for real democracy and political freedom to take hold, yet again.
Update: Uganisha, writing from Kenya, was in Uganda just before the elections and has a brilliant account.