Uganda vote set to extend Museveni’s 25-year rule

2011-02-18 09:05

Kampala – Ugandans started voting today in polls widely predicted to return long-time leader Yoweri Museveni to power, with a fragmented opposition crying foul even before the ballot.

A new term at the helm of the east African country would extend the former rebel leader’s rule to 30 years and his opponents have warned that Uganda was ripe for the kind of uprising currently sweeping the Arab world.

Voting kicked off officially at 7am, but only a handful of voters turned out early in the capital Kampala as polling equipment was still being set up.

There are 14 million voters in Uganda.

“I came early to vote and then I have to keep witnessing the process. We fear rigging,” said Badru Busulwa, the first to cast his ballot at a small open-air polling station in Kampala.

Suspicion was also rife in the Rubaga area, which is considered an opposition stronghold and where ballot papers hadn’t even been delivered to polling stations by the time voting was supposed to start.

Voters in Rubaga, which is where the head of Uganda’s largest traditional kingdom lives, were confused and frustrated as little explanation was being offered for the delay.

Museveni’s main challenger, Kizza Besigye, claims only rigging by the regime could deprive him of victory and has pledged to release his own set of results within 24 hours of the end of polling.

“We are going to have someone remain here for the whole day. Kampala is for Besigye, even Museveni knows that,” Kanaabi Quraish, an agent for Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change, said shortly after polling started.

Museveni, 66, has been defiant, predicting a landslide victory and promising to crack down on protests.

“There will be no Egypt-like revolution here. Egypt is a different story. Tunisia is a different story,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“It will be a big win,” said Museveni, who has been criticised at home and abroad over human rights, but has steered Uganda to an average growth rate of 5% since 2004 and proved a key security ally of the West.

Besigye, the most prominent of Museveni’s seven challengers, has already accused the regime and the electoral commission of planning widespread rigging to ensure Museveni’s re-election.

In his closing rally, the opposition leader made a thinly veiled call for mass protests if official results did not go his way, raising the spectre of yet another post-election crisis on the continent.

“If the electoral commission releases results that we know to be fraudulent, at that stage we shall recommend the Ugandan people deal with the matter directly,” he said earlier this week.

Museveni’s regime has deployed thousands of security forces across the country and the electoral commission has warned against any other body releasing results.

“The power to declare results of the presidential elections is vested with the national electoral commission,” warned Badru Kiggundu, the head of the polling panel.

Ugandans, who are electing their members of parliament and their president, have never known a democratic change of power.

Many commentators believe the election could be the closest since Museveni, a former guerrilla leader, grabbed power as head of the National Resistance Army in 1986.

Museveni drew tens of thousands of supporters in his rallies, and has campaigned on his success in ridding the country of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s brutal rebellion and the prospect of an oil windfall in his next term.

“By the end of these five years, Uganda will be a middle-income country. I will not allow Besigye and others to mess up that plan,” said Museveni earlier this week.

Observers say the opposition’s best hope is to deprive Museveni of more than 50% of the vote, and then unite against the incumbent in a second round.

If he completes a new term, Museveni will join a select club of African leaders who have ruled for more than 30 years, such as Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/Sport

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.