Uganda’s long-term head of state Yoweri Museveni is allowed to remain in office for another five years. On Saturday, the electoral commission of the East African landlocked country declared the 76-year-old the winner of Thursday’s presidential election. His strongest challenger, Robert Kyagulanyi, who voted for 34.8 percent of the electorate, has been under house arrest since he voted. After the first preliminary results were announced on Friday, he spoke at a press conference in front of his house “of the worst electoral fraud the country has ever experienced.” The candidate of the Alliance for National Transformation, Mugisha Muntu, also spoke of “completely fake” results on Saturday. Incumbent Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since he marched into the capital Kampala with his rebel group, the National Resistance Army, said in a TV speech that the election would go down in history as the “most fraud-free” election.
Both positions can hardly be checked. The President made sure early on that election fraud could hardly be detected. The EU’s offer to send observers was rejected by his government; the planned US delegation received so few accreditations that Washington finally recalled them completely. Even the African Union’s observer mission, which, in contrast to the Western powers, was actually charged with reviewing a regular election process, was severely curtailed and largely left without access to rural regions. According to its leader Samuel Fonkam Azu’u, he could not say whether the election was free and fair. When asked about Kyagulanyi’s allegations, the Cameroonian replied that he could not “talk about things that we have not seen or observed.”
Kyagulanyi has said he has video evidence of the electoral fraud, but will not produce this evidence until Museveni’s government lifts the full internet ban that began the day before the election. However, this has not happened so far. Instead, police and army forces surrounded the house of the opposition politician. A spokesman for Kyagulanyi said he was not allowed to leave his property and that no one would be allowed to see him, neither journalists nor people who wanted to bring food. An army spokesman gave opposite Reuters that the emergency services would weigh up the dangers that the politician could face if he left his property. He is therefore prevented from doing so “in the interests of his own safety.”
The situation in Uganda reveals two things. First: Museveni is unwilling to give up his power through elections. Second, his regime does not even consider it necessary to go to any lengths to cover up the harassment of the opposition. She doesn’t have to do that either and she knew that since November at the latest. 54 opposition supporters were killed within two days during protests against one of Kyagulanyi’s countless arrests. There was no major international outcry. Repeatedly, Museveni’s security apparatus, in which he installed his son in a leading position, prevented performances by Kyagulanyi, who was particularly popular among the younger classes and who had become famous as a reggae musician under the stage name Bobi Wine before he went into politics.
Under fair conditions, Museveni in Uganda, where a good half of the population is not yet 18 years old, would be at a loss to the 38-year-old, at least in perspective. But the long-term president – supported by the West from the start of his rule – knows that his military power is an indispensable “security anchor” in the region. He can sit out the quiet criticism of the election farce.