NAIROBI – Ugandan opposition presidential candidate Bobi Wine said Friday the military had entered his home and “we are in serious trouble," while the country waited for election results amid a government-ordered internet blackout and official results showed President Yoweri Museveni in the lead.
Wine tweeted just hours after he alleged that Thursday's election was rigged and said “every legal option is on the table” to challenge the official results, including peaceful protests. He referred to himself as the “president-elect.”
Wine was arrested several times during campaigning but never charged while dozens of party members were detained. This month he petitioned the International Criminal Court over alleged abuses by security forces. Wine has said he feared for his life.
“Bobi and colleagues are safe, for now, following military breaching their fence and entering their property,” an associate of Wine, Jeffrey Smith of the nonprofit Vanguard Africa, tweeted.
Reached by phone, military spokeswoman Brig. Gen. Flavia Byekwaso said that “it's not true. We only have a presence of soldiers in the general area of Magere,” the village where Wine lives. She said Wine should “appreciate” that security forces are there to protect him: "He is not an ordinary person any more.'
A Kampala police spokesman, Luke Owoyesigire, told broadcaster NTV Uganda that three unidentified people had tried to enter and one was arrested while two “took off.” He said Wine was not under arrest.
“We are not under legal detention but the situation around us shows we are under house arrest,” Wine's wife, Barbie, told reporters. "I think it is shameless of our security agencies to do this to us even when they know that the world is actually watching.”
Uganda's electoral commission said the president leads Wine and other candidates based on results from almost two-thirds of polling stations, receiving 62% of ballots while Wine had 30%. It said final results will be declared Saturday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Wine, a popular singer-turned-lawmaker half the president’s age, alleged to reporters that “whatever is being declared is a total sham.” At the time, there was a heavy police presence near his home.
The electoral commission said Wine should prove his allegations of rigging. He said he would provide video evidence of pre-ticked ballots and other irregularities once internet access in Uganda is restored.
“We secured a comfortable victory,” Wine said. “I am very confident that we defeated the dictator by far.” He was considering “peaceful and nonviolent protests” over the declared results and said “every legal option is on the table.” Candidates can challenge election results at the Supreme Court.
The generational clash between the young singer-turned-lawmaker Wine and the 76-year-old president is widely watched in many African countries where booming youthful populations express frustration with longtime leaders amid the stresses of high unemployment and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government cut internet access in the East African country on the eve of the largely peaceful election day, disrupting everything from mobile money payments to medical care.
Asked by reporters how voting results are being transmitted, the electoral commission chief replied that “we recognized the usual internet could ... have issues, so we did not want to take chances. So we designed our own system of transmitting these results.” How it works, he said is “something technical I can’t explain sufficiently for you to appreciate.”
Elections results were not announced by district, further challenging attempts to monitor the vote. The electoral commission said it “may not be able” to provide details of where the published results are from.
Observers have reported problems, including obtaining accreditation. Charity Ahimbisibwe, the team leader at the leading Uganda-based election observer group, said Friday she had been arrested while meeting with a journalist in a hotel in the capital, Kampala. She said she was taken to a police station where she was yet to be informed of the charges.
Museveni has led Uganda since 1986 and still has support among some in Uganda for bringing stability. A longtime U.S. security ally, he once criticized African leaders who refused to step aside but has since overseen the removal of term limits and an age limit on the presidency.