‘Violence’ as Uganda gears up for polls

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021 01:00 | By
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni (left) and musician-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine are the main contestants in a tense presidential election set for tomorrow. Photo/AFP

  by Kampala, Tuesday

Opposition figures in Uganda criticised widespread violence by security forces ahead of Thursday’s presidential election as main challenger Bobi Wine said soldiers raided his home and beat two security guards.

“The terror, frankly, is unprecedented,” said Kizza Besigye, a veteran opposition leader who challenged longtime President Yoweri Museveni in four elections.

“Violence, terror seem to be scaled up with every coming election. This election has witnessed untold violence. It gets worse and worse by the day.”

Patrick Onyango, police spokesman for the capital Kampala, denied Wine’s home had been raided or that anyone was arrested, saying: “We were just rearranging our security posture in the area near his home, specifically removing some checkpoints.”

Wine, a popular singer and politician whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, spoke alongside other opposition figures in Kampala on the last day of campaigning as they seek to deny Museveni another term.

The atmosphere is increasingly charged. The military is in charge of all security operations in the Kampala metropolitan area.

Wine, who insisted his campaign is nonviolent, urged his supporters not to be intimidated by the security forces.

At 38, Wine is half the age of Museveni and has attracted a large following among young people in a nation where 80 per cent of the population is under 30.

He is considered the frontrunner among 10 candidates challenging the former rebel leader who seized power in 1986.

Cracked down

While security forces have cracked down on the opposition at previous polls, the run-up to this year’s vote has been especially violent. In November, 54 people were killed as soldiers and police quelled protests after Wine was imprisoned.

Wine said the raid on his compound in Kampala and the arrest of his guards happened while he was doing an interview with Kenya’s Hot 96 FM radio station.

“I have to end the interview because I can see soldiers beating my security guards,” he said.

Wine and other leading opposition candidates said they had launched a concerted effort to protect against vote rigging at polling stations.

They are urging their supporters to stay within 100 metres of polling stations rather than return home as the electoral commission is demanding.

That means potential confrontations with security forces. Police and military personnel now patrol the streets in parts of Kampala.

Ugandan authorities also appeared to shut down Facebook on Tuesday in retaliation over its decision to censor many Ugandan accounts linked to Museveni that were allegedly engaged in inauthentic behaviour.

Many Ugandans said WhatsApp also was not working.

A presidential spokesman on Monday accused Facebook of meddling in the East African country’s election.

A spokesman for the Uganda Communications Commission, the regulator, did not respond to requests for comment.

Ugandan authorities have asserted an urgent need to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in imposing restrictions on presidential candidates, including a ban on campaigns in Kampala and other urban areas.  - Agencies

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