The electoral commission of Uganda on Saturday declared President Yoweri Museveni the winner of the February 18 elections, allowing him to extend his 30-year rule in the East African nation.
The Ugandan president acquired 10% more than the 50% votes needed to win the elections. His main challenger, the detained Kizza Besigye followed Museveni’s 60% win by garnering 35%.
According to Agence France Presse Museveni welcomed the news saying: “The opposition are not leaders, they are just demagogues, liars, just talking, talking.” This he said on Sunday in a speech broadcast from his home in western Uganda.
Commenting on Besigye, the president said that he (Besigye) “cannot be allowed to disturb our peace,” Museveni who was speaking from the garden of his rural home, later told reporters.
Ugandans went to polls on Thursday, February 18 with polling stations expected to open between 7:00 am and 4:00 pm. Some voters, however, had to vote the following day after the exercise was flawed by delays and logistical challenges.
During and after the elections, the opposition leaders led by the party president Maj Gen Mugisha, FDC’s leadership condemned the poll results.
“I call upon all Ugandans and the international community to reject and condemn the fraud that has been committed and to expose it to the fullest extent possible,” read the FDC statement.
Intimidation and harassment reported
In a press address prior to the results announcement, European Union observers stated they were concerned with the independence of the Ugandan Electoral Commission (EC) and the fairness of the poll process.
According to the Head of EU delegation Jo Leinen: “the lack of transparency and independence of the Electoral Commission (EC), and its markedly late delivery of voting material on election day to several districts considered opposition strongholds – most notably in Kampala, decreased the opportunity for voters to cast their ballots.”
He criticized the harassment and intimidation of the opposition and in particular, Besigye’s numerous arrests and intimidation of his supporters. He also noted that there were cases of voter bribery and voter intimidation.
“National Resistance Movement’s (NRM’s) domination of the political landscape distorted the fairness of the campaign and state actors were instrumental in creating an intimidating atmosphere for both voters and candidates,” the statement read in part.
In their preliminary report, EU poll observers noted that the opposition –particularly Besigye’s FDC – was harassed by state bodies.
The report said: “Intimidation and harassment of opposition by police and law enforcement bodies, as well as arrests of supporters and voters were reported from more than 20 districts. Opposition candidates’ ability to campaign freely was restricted on several instances during the campaign period.”.
In contrast, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union poll observers disagreed with the EC verdict, terming the elections as credible, free and fair.
Among those who extended their congratulatory message to Museveni include Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta who said that Ugandans had spoken very clearly.
Although the U.S. government commended Ugandans for peacefully holding the elections, the statement from State Department spokesman Mark Toner condemned Besigye’s arrest and called for his immediate release.
The spokesman also decried the delayed delivery of voting materials, reports of pre-checked ballots, vote buying, and blockage of social media and excessive use of force by police.
All these things, if true, "are deeply inconsistent with international standards and expectations for any democratic process," Toner said adding that the issues collectively undermined the integrity of the electoral process
" The Ugandan people deserve better," said Toner.
The 71-year old Museveni will rule the country in the next five years.
The man who wants to rule until he is 100, turns 92
While Museveni and his supporters were celebrating the win, President Robert Mugabe was making merry in Zimbabwe as he turned 92 with no plans to step down until he is 100 years old.
Newsday reported that the Zanu PF Youth League equated celebrating President Robert Mugabe’s birthday to celebrating that of Jesus Christ, claiming both were sent to “free” the people.
The celebration comes in at a time when thousands of Zimbabweans are facing starvation due to droughts. The Zanu PF youth league secretary, Pupurai Togarepi said Mugabe’s birthday will be celebrated even in a war situation in recognition of the “great works he has done to free” the people. He was responding to questions whether it was appropriate to take the festivities to Masvingo, where thousands are facing starvation.
“We won’t force anyone, people who are paying know how the party operates and no one was forced. The birthday is important, it is like the birth of Jesus, who was born to rescue us, the same way President Mugabe was born in 1924 to free all of us, including you journalists to start writing like you are doing now,” he said.
The $800,000 fete is planned to be held on 27 February in Masvingo which is Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party stronghold.
Moreover, the Zanu PF youth boss, Mr Togarepi has called for the February 21 be declared a national holiday and be called the 'Robert Mugabe Day' or 'Youth Day'.
Last year, Mugabe's lavish 91st birthday saw an elephant slaughtered to mark the day of the Zimbabwean leader who has been in power for 36 years.
Other than the elephant, Tendai Musasa, a local farmer told L.A. Times that he submitted for mass consumption two buffaloes, two sables and five impalas. Then there was the lion, shot and mounted. And the crocodile, shot and mounted. According to Musasa, the lion and crocodile were not for consumption but for display.
Museveni and Mugabe have one thing in common. They all want to overstay their power. They have managed to do this by getting their citizenry to believe they are the best leaders that these countries could ever have.
Image Credit: Nangayi Guyson, EPA (Respectively)