‘Museveni Is Scared.’ Uganda’s Aging Strongman Faces a Challenge from Singer Bobi Wine in an Election Plagued by Unrest

So far as marketing campaign songs go, Bobi Wine’s hits all the appropriate notes—an infectious, joyous message of hope reborn and nationwide unity ascendant, interwoven with marketing campaign pledges set to a rollicking, gospel infused reggae beat.

Accompanied by a slickly produced music video that includes among the nation’s hottest musicians, Uganda’s pop-star turned presidential candidate guarantees an finish to dictatorship, to discrimination, to corruption, to dysfunctional hospitals and to maternal mortality. However the chance of the 38-year-old attending to make his guarantees a actuality seems slim, as voters go to the polls on Jan. 14 in an election suffering from repression, voter intimidation and violence.

Wine, whose actual identify is Robert Kyagulanyi, is considered one of 10 candidates difficult 76-year-old President Yoweri Museveni, a former common who has been in energy since 1986 and who has no intention of stepping down any time quickly. He lobbied to raise the constitutionally-mandated age restrict for the presidency simply as he was about to surpass it, making certain a continued grip on energy. Now that he has the appropriate to run once more, Museveni and his ruling celebration, the Nationwide Resistance Motion, are decided that he’ll win at any price.

READ MORE:Why Uganda’s Bobi Wine Is Placing His Future on the Line for a Shot on the Presidency.

That dedication has performed out in more and more bloody methods. Police crackdowns on opposition rallies over the previous a number of months have left scores useless. Opposition candidates and their supporters have confronted ongoing intimidation campaigns, together with threats to their households. In mid-November Wine and fellow candidate Patrick Oboi Amuriat have been arrested on fees of flouting Covid-19 rules, sparking country-wide protests that noticed at the very least 54 individuals killed. Since then, each international media and election monitoring organizations have been kicked in another country, whereas civil society organizations have seen their financial institution accounts frozen below opaque allegations of anti-government actions.

The stress on Wine, by far one of the best recognized of Museveni’s rivals, has intensified because the election drew nearer. On Jan. 7, police swarmed his automobile as he was giving a web based press convention, firing tear gasoline and capturing within the air as they dragged him from the automotive. Wine had been discussing his petition to the Worldwide Legal Court docket to analyze alleged abuses by safety forces within the run as much as Uganda’s election. He was finally launched. Wine tweeted on Tuesday that troopers had raided his Kampala dwelling, arresting his safety guards and killing a driver. The police deny the allegations. Later that day the streets of Kampala crammed with navy autos and personnel, a few of whom have been captured on video assaulting Wine’s supporters.

Wine has been a thorn in Museveni’s aspect ever since he transitioned from a hip-hop star to a social activist calling for higher management and extra alternatives for Uganda’s youth. In 2017 he gained a seat in parliament, the place he began agitating for a change in management. The higher Wine’s well-liked enchantment grew, the extra Museveni disparaged him. In a current interview, he insinuated that Wine was supported by the West to advertise homosexuality, a potent canine whistle in a rustic the place homophobia continues to be deeply entrenched, and the place homosexuality is broadly seen as a international import. “He will get various encouragement from foreigners and homosexuals,” Museveni stated within the interview. “Homosexuals are very pleased with Bobi Wine. I believe they even ship him help.”

READ MORE: How Uganda’s LGBT Group Is Preventing for the Proper to Exist

Disinformation has additionally unfold on-line. On Jan. 11, Fb shut down the accounts of a number of Ugandan authorities officers linked to the ministry of knowledge and communications know-how, accusing them of manipulative messaging. “They used faux and duplicate accounts to handle pages, touch upon different individuals’s content material, impersonate customers, re-share posts in teams to make them seem extra well-liked that they have been,” Fb’s head of communication for sub-Saharan Africa, Kezia Anim-Addo, informed AFP. “Given the upcoming election in Uganda, we moved rapidly to analyze and take down this community.”

A day later, the federal government blocked entry to social media platforms nation extensive. Museveni defended the shutdown in a televised deal with, saying it was in response to the Fb ban, and insisting that he wouldn’t tolerate the “vanity” of social media firms deciding “who is nice and who’s unhealthy” in Uganda. Whereas he didn’t point out the election immediately, a national social media ban can be an efficient technique to block opposition campaigning, and even election oversight by residents.

“This time, Museveni is scared,” says a resident knowledgeable on Ugandan politics who’s at present working with the European Union on Uganda’s election, and who requested to not be named given the sensitivity of talking out for the time being. Previous elections, whereas marred by accusations of intimidation, bias and corruption, have been by no means so unhealthy that journalists have been kicked out or civil society organizations prevented from working. “This yr, we’re seeing a substantial ratcheting up of oppression and intimidation.” One of many causes, he notes, may very well be the groundswell of help going to Bobi Wine.

Whereas a current Afrobarometer ballot reveals Museveni in a transparent lead forward of Wine, with 50% of voters in comparison with Wine’s 19%, it’s not sufficient to make sure that the election gained’t go to runoff — an eventuality that consultants say Museveni can’t afford. “Museveni’s marketing campaign is predicated on the inevitability that he will likely be elected, so individuals gained’t threat voting towards him if it’s clear he’s going to win. But when Museveni doesn’t get victory within the first spherical, it’s just like the proverbial emperor who has no garments,” says the Uganda politics knowledgeable. For that purpose, he’ll do no matter is important to ensure the primary spherical is his.

Overseas NGOs and election organizations seem to share his considerations. Already the United Nations has warned that the political situations in Uganda are stopping the chance of a free and honest presidential election. Spokeswoman for the U.N. Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, informed Voice of America that the deteriorating human rights state of affairs within the nation is more likely to discourage individuals from voting, elevating the prospect of continued unrest after the election. “Quite a few human rights violations have been reported, together with of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceable meeting and participation, in addition to arbitrary deprivation of life, arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture. … Certainly, harassment, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and detention of opposition candidates and supporters have been worrying developments in the course of the electoral marketing campaign.”

Ugandans seem like resigned to such an final result as properly. A late 2020 Gallup ballot confirmed {that a} majority (62%) stated they didn’t believe within the honesty of their nation’s elections, whereas confidence of their nationwide authorities slipped from 48% in October to 36% by the top of November. “Ugandans really feel extra tense with every day that brings it nearer to the election. Amid widespread intimidation from safety forces and a brand new social media blackout, the ambiance is defiant, although most imagine there nonetheless stays no technique to unseat the incumbent by way of elections,” says Jay Loschky, the Gallup Regional World Ballot Director for Africa.

For his half, Wine nonetheless thinks his marketing campaign for a brand new period in Ugandan management will bear fruit, finally. Because the refrain of his marketing campaign music says, “When the battle is over we will put on the victor’s crown.” He by no means specified precisely how lengthy that battle would final.


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