January 24, 2021

How Uganda’s election has been stacked against the pop star who would be president

January 13, 2021

Everyone in Uganda knows the country is going to the polls today.

Election signs and slogans have been plastered on just about every billboard and lamp post in the nation.

And everyone knows who is likely to win the presidency.

President Yoweri Museveni, who is seeking his sixth term, has got the state's key agencies working hard to secure his victory.

The 76-year-old has the country's electoral commission, which organises the vote, under his effective control, as well as the police and military, who have made life extremely difficult for Uganda's opposition parties.

His most prominent opponent, charismatic popstar turned politician Bobi Wine, has been attacked and arrested on multiple occasions and dozens of his supporters have been killed.

Journalists following Mr Wine have been tear-gassed, beaten and shot with rubber bullets.

Opposition groups depend on social media to communicate safely and securely. But this week the government moved to block all social media platforms.

Mr Museveni was particularly unhappy when Facebook deleted accounts belonging to government officials accused of attempting to manipulate public debate before election day.

In televised remarks he told the nation: "The government has closed social media… There's no way anyone can come and play around with our country, to decide who is good [and] who is bad... we cannot accept that."

In response, Bobi Wine - whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi - told Sky News that Uganda's ruler was trying to shut his opponents down.

He said: "Taking on General Museveni [means] taking on the Ugandan police force, the Ugandan military, the bank of Uganda - all the institutions of state have been deployed against us to attack us with impunity, with brutality.

"There is no rule of law."

Mr Wine was in a pensive mood as he circled the garden on his property outside the capital Kampala.

He said 92 polling agents from his National Unity Platform party had been arrested over the past week, making their efforts to observe the vote count far more difficult.

"[Our team] is calling us, informing us that agents are being arrested and that those coordinators are being picked up by the military and are being charged with recruiting rebels," he said

The 38-year old musician, who was raised in a slum, has given the president a run for his money in this election.

But the insurgent candidate said he does not expect the president to go quietly and that more violence could lie ahead.

"We are already seeing the events unfolding, as you must have seen, the military has been heavily deployed with heavy combat weapons, as if the nation of Uganda is under attack by a foreign aggressor," he said.

"We expect more violence, but again, we expect more resistance."

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