KAMPALA – Ugandan opposition figure Bobi Wine is calling for peaceful protests in the aftermath of presidential elections, charging that electoral authorities are “grappling with forged results” that showed victory for President Yoweri Museveni.
Wine, a singer and lawmaker whose real name is Kyagulanyi Sentamu, spoke on Tuesday, the day after police warned in a statement that some opposition politicians were planning “nationwide violent demonstrations and riots beginning with Kampala,” the capital. That statement warned that police had “deployed strategically to counter these illegal acts."
Wine on Tuesday asserted that the East African country’s constitution allows peaceful protests.
“Ugandans must now rise to the occasion and resist Museveni and his regime of blood,” he said. “As we have been saying, we are nonviolent and lawful. Our philosophy stands firm. People power is stronger than the people in power.”
Museveni was declared the winner of the Jan. 14 elections with 58% of the vote while Wine had 35%. Wine called those results fraudulent, citing cases of soldiers allegedly stuffing ballot boxes, casting ballots for people and chasing voters away from polling stations.
Uganda's top court last week permitted Wine to withdraw a petition his attorneys had filed seeking to invalidate Museveni's reelection. Wine said he no longer had confidence in the panel of nine justices, accusing the court of bias.
Museveni dismissed allegations of vote-rigging after electoral authorities announced his victory, calling the elections “the most cheating-free” since Uganda’s independence from Britain in 1962.
Museveni, a former guerilla leader who took power by force in 1986 and has since been elected six times, is popular among many Ugandans for bringing relative stability and security. Museveni himself has castigated former leaders such as Idi Amin, whose regime was notorious for kidnappings and extrajudicial killings.
But opposition figures such as Wine accuse Museveni of increasingly ruling like his predecessors. They say corruption and alleged abuses by the security forces have become more widespread as Museveni tries to extend his rule.
“Many of our brothers and sisters disappeared and they've never been seen again,” Wine said on Tuesday, speaking of alleged disappearances in the aftermath of the presidential vote. “Those who have been lucky to return have spoken of being subjected to unspeakable torture and brutality.”
Some of the victims had been castrated, he said.
Museveni recently dismissed allegations that his forces have illegally detained civilians, saying his army “is a disciplined force” and that his party “does not kill” its opponents. But he acknowledged that he had beefed up security ahead of the elections by deploying soldiers from a commando unit previously deployed in Somalia who “killed a few” people he described as terrorists.
Uganda has never seen a peaceful transfer of power, one reason why even some within Museveni's party openly say he must groom a successor.