Uganda’s Presidential election results questioned

EPA/DAI KUROKAWA

Army soldiers (top) and military police officers (bottom) stand guard against supporters of Kizza Besigye, the leader of the main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), at a busy intersection in Kampala, Uganda, 20 February 2016. Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of the country's Presidential election on 20 February, extending his 30-year rule by winning 60.8 per cent of the vote while his main opponent Kizza Besigye won 35.4 per cent. Besigye, who was under house arrest as Museveni was declared the winner, has rejected the results and urged international community to do the same. The capital remained calm after the results announcement with heavy security presence.

The opposition, the EU, and the US and various human rights groups question the democratic “level-playing-field” credentials of the regime


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One of the leaders of Uganda’s opposition is legally challenging the elections results of the February 16 Presidential elections. The incumbent, Yoweri Musavesi, came first, securing 60,8% of the vote, thereby renewing his 30-year reign. Musavesi has ruled Uganda since 1986.

Amama Mbabazi, who has in the past served as Musavesi’s Prime Minister (2011-2014) during is pursuing litigation. He is alleging voter bribery, threats, abusive language, and arrests of candidates and their supporters.

The main contender for the Presidency, Kizza Besigye, allegedly walked in on a ballot-staffing operation the day of the elections and was subsequently arrested. Besigye also challenged the 2001 and 2006 election results. Officially, on February 16 he came second securing 35,4%.

The day of the election most social media platforms were blocked. Human rights groups have time and again accused Musavesi’s regime of torture and intimidation of political opponents. Likewise, the EU and the U.S. State Department have renounced the intimidating atmosphere and lack of transparency.

The Ugandan regime dismisses any criticism as “not serious.” Contrary to criticism in Washington and Brussels, the Russian foreign ministry hailed the open and calm nature of the elections. Support was also forthcoming from neighboring Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

There is little doubt the regime has a core of support, having achieved 7% GDP growth throughout the 1990s and 2000s. As a result, Uganda has halved extreme poverty in line with UN Millennium Development Goals. Over 86% of school age children enroll in primary schools, even if these are of poor quality. And infant and maternal mortality has dropped impressively, although HIV/AID continues to be a concern.

Uganda’s economy very much depends on commodity exports. Oil and gas are tumbling, which makes the country’s debt profile less dependable. The local currency’s exchange rate against the dollar has tumbled by 30% and its trade deficit is surging.

However, youth unemployment is currently skyrocketing (60% plus), probably as a result of one of the worst business environments in the world, with exorbitant taxes, corruption, persistent power outages, and high cost of credit. In addition, the landlocked country is suffering from conflict in neighboring Sudan and Burundi disrupts its trade with the rests of the world.

(Reuters, FT, Newsweek, Brookings, GRI, DW)

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