Museveni’s Blazing Presidential Election Amid Fraud Accusations from Observers

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  • + Museveni blazes past allegations of vote-rigging, corruption, and nepotism to win his sixth term as president of Uganda. 
  • + Despite the popular opposition party, National Unity Platform (NUP), competing for change in Uganda, Museveni continues to hold power. 
  • + An internet blackout raises suspicion among locals and international observers as to the reliability of the vote. 

Why is Museveni’s heat level blazing?

Answer: Museveni is blazing through political victories as he survives another re-election amidst local & international suspicions of fraud.

Uganda’s long-time President Yoweri Museveni has been re-elected for yet another term. The longstanding president declared victory for the sixth time amidst allegations of vote-rigging, corruption, and nepotism. This means that Museveni and his family will maintain a stronghold on power in the executive and the legislative branches of the country. Despite vocal concerns of an undemocratic election by opposition parties and the international community, Museveni will continue to serve as president of Uganda. 

Museveni‘s tight grip on power has lasted over 35 years and although the leader was initially labeled as the new generation of African leaders by the international community, critics compare Museveni with other autocratic leaders in the region including Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and Teodoro Obiang in Equatorial Guinea. 

Who is changing Museveni’s temperature?

Answer: Popular opposition leader Bobi Wine posed a threat to Museveni, but his arrest and internet blackout took over the elections.

Hundreds of young men and women dressed in red have emerged from Uganda’s informal settlements to surround Museveni’s main opponent and opposition presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, also popularly known as rap singer Bobi Wine, as he wins the hearts of the frustrated youth in Uganda. His loyal base of young supporters surrounded his white Toyota Landcruiser in the capital, Kampala, to pledge their support. Uganda’s “ghetto president” and his National Unity Platform (NUP) party strives to improve access to healthcare, education, clean water, and justice within the country, something that he claims can only be done by removing Museveni from power.

Although Wine’s popularity was initially overstated, notably in the capital Kampala, Museveni’s government began to understand the magnitude of support that Bobi Wine was accumulating when the presidential rival started drawing crowds from rural areas throughout Uganda. The opposition leader, using his expertise from his rapping career, took to social media to call on the youth of Uganda- the majority of the population (median population age is 15 years)- to call for change. His support posed a threat, but not big enough to undertake Museveni and his government. Although the promise of a “new and improved” version of Uganda was on the horizon, it is far from the reality of Ugandan politics. With no experience in public affairs, Bobi Wine will find it difficult to change the status quo in a country like Uganda that has changed laws to favor a non-party movement system that makes it difficult for anyone to topple Museveni’s regime. 

There has never been a peaceful handover of power in Uganda, and 2021 was no exception. Bobi Wine and his campaign team were arrested in late December of 2020 and protests in Kampala broke out. The government reacted by firing tear gas at the crowds as Museveni cautioned that any attempt at a Sudan-style uprising will be defeated. During the elections allegations of vote-rigging by Bobi Wine were dismissed by the country’s electoral commission.  Although Museveni claims that the election was fair and democratic, opposition leaders, critics, and the international community are concerned with an internet shutdown that took place for 5 days during the elections.

President Museveni is desperate to cling on to power, with constitutional changes to ensure his re-election, an unprecedented consolidation of power from his party in politics, raging political campaigns that bash opposition leaders from 2011 and now, with the arrest of Bobi Wine and an internet blackout that restricted Ugandans from their right to access information. It is evident that Museveni does not plan on retiring any time soon. This poses a challenge to Uganda, as change is most likely not going to happen anytime soon; and what is considered to be stability in the eyes of the government can also be considered to be autarchic. 

What is driving Museveni?

Answer: Museveni clings onto power as he strives to achieve his life-long goal of transforming Uganda into a first world country & furthering regional integration

Although Museveni originally vowed to limit his time in power, he claims that he still has a mission to complete and will only discuss succession plans with his party when the time is right. The President has assured the international community and the people of Uganda that his only intention is to stand for stability in the country, something that can only be done if he remains in power. However, his intentions have raised eyebrows across the globe with allegations of voter fraud, human rights abuses and the nationwide internet lockdown that took place during his sixth re-election. 

Museveni provided political stability, a growing economy and improved infrastructure which helped him revitalize Uganda. Unlike his African counterparts, Museveni embraced a mixed-economy model that has increased output by 10-fold during his presidency, securing vital assistance from foreign donors. Museveni has been praised for his mass AIDS prevention campaign that was able to bring the epidemic in Uganda under control. While he has regularly held elections to boost his democratic credentials, these have come into question in recent years due to increased levels of violence. This has not stopped Western powers from providing foreign grants and financing, which the government relies heavily on for their public spending in infrastructure projects, social services, and credit for capital investment. The IMF estimates that more than 12 percent of Uganda’s government spending comes from foreign grants. 

The President’s foreign policy often involved getting into bed with African rebels, however Museveni has assured that it was the only way to achieve regional political and economic integration. Museveni will not retire until he has achieved socio-economic transformation in Uganda by turning into a first world country and an East African Federation. With neither goals within his reach, it is hard to say when he will take a back seat. 

The European Union and the United States did not deploy observers for the 2021 presidential elections in Uganda, which casts doubt on the validity and transparency of Museveni’s victory. With allegations of vote-rigging, corruption, and nepotism, the international community must certify that the elections were democratic.

Days before elections took place, Museveni ordered social media to be switched off. Upon realizing that people were able to work their way around the ban with private networks, the internet was completely shut down on the evening before the elections. Critics claim that this tactic was used to block communication to compromise the vote. This is not a new phenomenon in the region, as internet blackouts during elections have taken Africa by storm. In Tanzania, the internet and social media applications were restricted during the elections in October 2020. In June of the same year, Ethiopia imposed an internet shutdown which lasted close to a month. Togo, Burundi, Chad, Mali, Guinea, and Zimbabwe all restricted access to the internet and social media applications at some point in 2020. These governments have exploited internet blackouts to serve their political means, which could have devastating effects on democracy in Africa. 

What does this mean for you?

Answer: Continuing instability in the Great Lakes region, international community’s inaction in the face of authoritarianism.

If you are the youth in Uganda looking for change, Museveni’s victory might get your hopes down, however if you are a supporter still yearning for stability within the country you would consider his victory to be one of your own. If you are African, you hope that Museveni will continue to fight regional conflicts and wish that he has better luck than he did with Joseph Kony. You will also support a more united and less divisive Africa, that strives to work together rather than apart. 

If you are from outside of Africa, you may worry about the validity of the Ugandan elections. The US, EU, UN, and global rights and democracy groups have since raised concerns about the reliability and transparency of the election. This could have huge implications on international financial assistance, the will of aid donors to Uganda, and overall international credibility for African democracies that the country so heavily depends on.