Yoweri Museveni was declared President of Uganda for what will be his 5th term on Saturday 20th February 2016 (elections were held on Thursday 19th). The opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, was, at time of writing, being held under house arrest in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
Besigye was the former doctor of Museveni and was detained on Friday, the day before the election results were announced. He has previously run against Museveni in the 2001, 2006 and 2011 elections, losing each time. He has accused the President of winning by intimidation and vote rigging.
John Aglionby, East African Correspondent for the Financial Times, said in his article on 20th February 2016 that according to EU observers, ‘the National Resistance Movement’s [Museveni’s party] domination of the political landscape distorted the fairness of the campaign and state actions created an intimidating atmosphere for both voters and candidates which continued in the days immediately following elections’.
The head of the EU mission, Eduard Kukan, said that the election was marked by a lack of ‘transparency and independence’ and that the President’s decision to block social media put constraints on freedom of expression and access to information.
Observers from the Commonwealth said that the election fell short of some ‘key democratic benchmarks’.
John Kerry, US Secretary of State, telephoned Museveni to ask him to reign in security and say that Uganda’s progress depended on its adherence to strong democratic principles. He has called for Besigye to be released, social media to be restored and the election results to be investigated.
Uganda’s African neighbours have recognised the results.
Museveni, 71, has ruled for 30 years and has said his opponent had been ‘plotting against him’. A former guerrilla fighter, Museveni came to power in a 1986 coup. He has denied any allegations that the elections were not free and fair, saying that proof can be seen from his loss in certain regions.
According to Ben Shepherd from the Africa Program at Chatham House, in his article posted on 23rd February 2016, Museveni is still admired by any for having brought political and economic stability to Uganda after the chaos of the preceding years. The main current issues in Uganda are (1) infrastructure; (2) corruption; and (3) growth. Even with education, without adequate investment from the private sector, there are millions who face unemployment. Half of Uganda’s rapidly growing population is currently under the age of 15. The country is split into 111 sub-national political units (by comparison, Nigeria has only 36), which makes it difficult for any new political movement to gain any momentum; if a challenger to Museveni did arise. Furthermore, an application to join the candidacy for Presidency does not come cheap.
Shepherd points out that both of the opposing candidates in the February 2016 elections had strong military links and were involved in the 1986 ousting of Obote which brought Museveni to power (for history of Uganda post 1962 independence, see my separate article).
Museveni has already changed the constitution once to extend the duration of his Presidency. He claims that he knows what is best for Uganda and has done this in order to protect it. The next barrier for Museveni will be the maximum age stipulation within the constitution; this would terminate his term at the age of 75. He is now 71, although the opposition believe that he is lying about his age. Another constitutional change would have to be implemented extending this age limit or removing it entirely if Museveni is to complete his fifth term as democratically elected President. Even if he is permitted to remain, he would be constitutionally barred from re-running at the next elections in 2021.
According to a recent article in Foreign Policy, there are concerns that Museveni will choose a family member to replace him at the end of his term, with his son being gradually eased into public life through a series of military promotions. It has also been suggested that his wife, who has political experience, could replace her husband in the 2021 elections (see below for full article).
‘Yoweri Museveni Declared the Winner of Election’
John Aglionby for the Financial Times, 20th February 2016
‘Uganda Opposition Leader Calls for Protests Against Election Result’
John Aglionby for the Financial Times, 21st February 2016
‘Uganda’s Main Opposition Leader Held’
John Aglionby for the Financial Times, 22nd February 2016
‘Uganda’s Election Results May be Genuine, but the System is Dying’
Ben Shepherd for Chatham House, 23rd February 2016
‘The Queen of Uganda’s Museveni Dynasty’
Angelo Izama for Foreign Policy, 25th February 2016
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