Uganda will vote today in presidential and parliamentary elections marred by political repression as singer-turned-politician Bobi Wine challenges President Yoweri Museveni’s 34-year rule.
This is even as the United States has cancelled its observation of Uganda’s presidential election because most of its accreditation requests were denied and said Thursday’s vote would lack accountability and transparency.
The announcement adds to a growing chorus of concern over the credibility of the election pitting Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, against 10 candidates including opposition frontrunner Bobi Wine, a popular singer.
While previous elections have been marred by crackdowns on the opposition, campaigning this time has been particularly violent.
Scores of people have been killed and opposition candidates, supporters and campaign staff have been repeatedly arrested and intimidated.
The European Union said on Tuesday that the electoral process had been seriously tarnished by the excessive use of force and its offer to deploy a small team of electoral experts was not taken up.
A coalition representing hundreds of Ugandan civil society organisations said on Wednesday that it had filed 1,900 accreditation requests but only 10 had been granted. The most prominent of the 10 opposition candidates is the National Unity Platform’sBobi Wine – a 38-year-old ragga star who has used his popularity with Uganda’s youthful population to defy the 76-year-old president and his National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.
On December 26, the government banned campaign rallies in the capital Kampala and 15 other counties, citing the risk of spreading Covid-19. This is despite Uganda recording just 301 coronavirus deaths. Its population is regarded as one of the least at-risk because it is the world’s second-youngest, with more than 48 percent of Ugandans aged under 15.
One of Wine’s bodyguards was killed and two journalists injured in confrontations between security forces and his supporters on December 27. Wine said his bodyguard died after an army vehicle ran him over.
He added that the bodyguard was helping an injured cameraman who was reportedly shot in the head in an earlier altercation. The army said the bodyguard died from injuries caused by falling out of a car.
The following day, Patrick Oboi Amuriat, presidential candidate for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, collapsed and was hospitalised after police pepper-sprayed him in the eyes as he tried
to join supporters at a rally.