It’s two days to go, and after campaigning marred by deadly attacks, more than 18 million voters enrolled to take part in high-stake voting.
The stakes of hopes are unparalleled as millions of Ugandans prepare to choose the president of the country this week.
Restrictions on campaigning, arrests of opposition leaders, and deadly violence have marred the run-up to Thursday’s ballot.
At least 54 people were killed as security forces put down demonstrations by members of the opposition somewhere in November 2020.
The Ugandan presidential contest has reached a peak in hostilities with decisions yet to emerge and until the cast of ballots, even at that, the proclamation of electoral malpractices fills the air.
Museveni’s recent re-elections were challenged by opposition candidates in Uganda, claiming voter coercion and ballot stuffing.
In his bid to gain a sixth, five-year term in office, longtime President Yoweri Museveni, 76, is facing a stiff challenge from famous musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine.
When Museveni, a former rebel leader, came to power in 1986, Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, was only four years old.
Presidential term limits were abolished in 2005 by Uganda’s ruling-party-dominated parliament. And in 2017, lawmakers removed age limit of 75 for presidential candidates, in a move blasted by opponents as an aim to paving way for Museveni to be president for life.
Bobi Wine has been arrested several times on separate charges since entering politics in 2017 but has never been charged.
In recent weeks, his protests with tear gas and rubber bullets have been brutally suppressed by security forces, whilst a number of opposition figures have been arrested and journalists targeted.
In his disproportionate search to maintain the country’s highest political office, Museveni’s crackdown on opposition candidates was camouflaged in the guise of authorities compliant with the COVID-19 restrictions.
“The authorities have consistently used COVID-19 guidelines as an excuse for violent repression of the opposition rather than to safeguard the democratic playing field for free and fair elections,” said Oryem Nyeko, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
He has often presented himself as a candidate for continuity, alert of insecurity if other candidates are selected by the electorate.
Museveni traveled around the landlocked region, commissioning new infrastructure projects and supporting the track record of the construction of highways, bridges, hospitals, hydropower dams, and industrial parks by his administration.
With more than 75 percent of its residents under the age of 30, Uganda has one of the world’s youngest communities.
And with the current leadership, unwavering self-proclaimed good governance records unemployment has been rampant, especially among the youth, while the economy has been hit hard by the pandemic.
34,684 polling stations in 146 districts have been set up by the electoral commission, with security forces stationed throughout the region.
Will Museveni’s Sixth Term Bid Be Halted by Bobi Wine?
“If the police have to beat people to stop them from showing me support in the hometown of President Museveni, then you know it’s game over for the old man,” Bobi Wine, who wears a helmet and bulletproof vest on the campaign trail told his supporters during a rally last month.
But how true can Bobi Wines victory turn into a reality? Forsige have reached to a number of people in Uganda regarding the safety of election results and here’s what they have to say.
More than 18 million voters, as well as members of parliament, have enrolled to elect a president out of a total of 11 challengers. A presidential nominee must receive more than 50 percent of the cast votes to prevent a runoff.
Candidates make lofty claims that they will not be able to uphold if they win the vote, political experts claim.
According to Yosam Mukundane, Forsige political observer and coordinator of the western region Integrity Ambassador’s Club, “the existing heights of political shambles in Uganda has resulted to unwanted loss of lives and created a turbulent atmosphere in most part of the country.
The Inspector General of Police Martins Okoth Ochola however said in a media briefing on Friday “All Ugandans that are participating in the electoral process must rest assured that we will protect and serve them, in a very impartial, fair and transparent manner.”
Yosam added that “there’s a high chance of electoral malpractices despite claims, hence affirming peoples trust in the military than the police,” he noted the presence of an app to monitor the voting conducts in polling units”.
In his view, the government still wield the capacity to manipulating the apps against the advantage of the oppositions.
“The Ugandan government should instead focus on ensuring that the security forces respect the rule of law, are held accountable for abuses, and act in an impartial manner,” Oryem Nyeko, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. said.
Journalists were warned by authorities that they would be prohibited from going to places where their lives could be threatened.
Regional bodies such as the Intergovernmental Development Authority and the East African Community sent observer missions, but this time the European Union, which had sent electoral observers in the past, was not deployed, stating that its proposals to make the elections free and fair had been overlooked.