Uganda’s Museveni re-elected amid controversy

Veteran leader declared winner with 60 percent of votes in election marred by violence and allegations of ballot fraud.

Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for 30 years, has been re-elected the country’s president in an election overshadowed by arrests of politicians and allegations of rigging.

The country’s election body declared Museveni, 71, the winner on Saturday afternoon with more than 60 percent of the votes cast.

Museveni, a former rebel who seized power in 1986, was widely expected to win a fifth term, which will now extend his power into a fourth decade.

His closest rival, Kizza Besigye, 59, obtained about 35 percent of the vote. Shortly before the election result was declared, the country’s security forces put Besigye under house arrest.

Police carried out multiple arrests of opposition activists, including Besigye, during the vote.

House arrest

Police have arrested Besigye four times since the day of election and he is currently detained at his house in the capital Kampala.

Besigye’s third arrest was caught by Al Jazeera cameras as he tried to access a house where ballots were suspected of being altered.

The general elections were marked by protests by opposition supporters against alleged ballot fraud [AP/Ben Curtis]
The general elections were marked by protests by opposition supporters against alleged ballot fraud [AP/Ben Curtis]

On Friday police in riot gear set off stun grenades and fired tear gas at Besigye supporters, who responded by hurling rocks and erecting street barricades.

John Kerry, US secretary of state, called Museveni to voice concern over Besigye’s detention, harassment of opposition figures and the shutdown of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Police officials said they were at Besigye’s home as a preventive measure to prevent a further escalation of violence and denied detaining him.

Besigye was Museveni’s field doctor during the war which brought him to power, and served as deputy interior minister in his first cabinet.
He broke ranks with Museveni in 1999, saying the president was no longer a democrat. On Saturday, Besigye rejected the outcome of the polls and reportedly called it a sham.
He has called for an independent audit of the results.

Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from Kampala, said the conduct of the election had been criticised by European Union observers.

“They said the use of force against the opposition has been unacceptable and they also said the electoral commission has lacked transparency,” he said.

‘Lacking transparency’

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Eduard Kukan, European Union’s chief observer, called the work of the electoral commission a “failure”.

Kukan, however, said the observers have not personally witnessed the alleged stuffing of ballot boxes and vote rigging. 

Our correspondent said it was unclear how opposition supporters would react to the outcome of the election.

The electoral commission rejected the criticism and said it had conducted the elections in a free and fair way.

Earlier, Jonathan Taremwa, a spokesman for the electoral commission, told Al Jazeera the vote was “transparent” and “fair”.

“Some people didn’t get to vote. It was unfortunate, it was regrettable, and the commission offered an apology. We finally had stations [affected by delays] opened for votes and later extended the voting from 4pm to 7pm,” Taremwa said.

Besigye’s supporters said the delays were deliberate and were aimed at favouring Museveni.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies