Thursday, January 21, 2021

Uganda election: Opposition, together with Bobi Wine, reels from repression forward of Thursday’s vote

Thursday’s elections will carry them face to face, however the authorities has unleashed a wave of intimidation and repression towards the opposition celebration and its supporters, extinguishing any hope many had in a good vote.

Kemigisha’s husband, a detailed aide of Wine’s, has spent the previous two weeks locked up in a army barracks on what she says are preposterous prices of unlawful possession of ammunition. Kemigisha, 28, is weeks from giving start to their second little one.

“I simply thank God he’s alive,” she stated in an interview from the again seat of a automobile, the place she felt protected speaking to a journalist — one other group that Uganda’s army has cracked down on. She sleeps at completely different buddies’ homes most nights, fearing her personal arrest. “We’ve misplaced buddies, colleagues. We’ve buried them.”

At the very least 54 protesters had been killed in November after Wine was arrested at a marketing campaign rally, the second of thrice he was arrested forward of the election. Wine’s prominence has doubtless protected his life, analysts stated. One other opposition candidate, Patrick Oboi Amuriat, was arrested on Monday for the ninth time since declaring his candidacy — this time over a site visitors legislation barring individuals from sticking their heads out of sunroofs.

Wine has stated all 23 members of his marketing campaign workforce had been arrested, and the bulk had been nonetheless in jail.

Fred Enanga, a police spokesman, declined to touch upon the arrests of opposition figures, together with Kemigisha’s husband, however referred to a earlier assertion during which he justified the arrests as a part of enforcement of social distancing protocols and blamed the deaths of protesters on Wine and “others who search to incite.”

Taking to Twitter earlier than the federal government ordered all social media to be blocked on Tuesday, Wine known as the techniques “the kicks of a dying horse.”

The shutdown of social media got here in obvious retaliation for Fb’s culling of round 100 profiles on Monday it stated had been faux accounts spreading pro-government misinformation forward of the election.

“This month, we eliminated a community of accounts and pages in Uganda that engaged in CIB (Coordinated Inauthentic Habits) to focus on public debate forward of the election,” Fb’s head of communication for sub-Saharan Africa, Kezia Anim-Addo, stated in an e mail.

Museveni’s spokesman, Don Wanyama, whose Fb and Instagram accounts had been shut down, alleged a overseas plot to affect the election.

“Disgrace on the overseas forces that suppose they’ll assist and plant a puppet management on Uganda by disabling on-line accounts of NRM supporters,” he stated on Twitter.

Ugandan authorities say that public order and stopping the unfold of the coronavirus are their utmost priorities, and so they have imposed restrictions on campaigning in Kampala and nearly all different Ugandan cities.

Breaches of social distancing pointers had beforehand been cited in Wine and Amuriat’s arrests. Museveni has continued to marketing campaign in ways in which much less clearly flout these guidelines, reminiscent of visiting the websites of improvement initiatives. His presence nonetheless attracts massive crowds that aren’t dispersed.

Wine and different main opposition candidates urged their supporters to remain inside 100 meters of polling stations somewhat than return residence because the electoral fee has suggested. If the previous weeks have been any indication, the army would doubtless meet such motion with violent dispersal.

“The fear, frankly, is unprecedented,” stated Kizza Besigye, a veteran opposition chief who took on Museveni in 4 earlier elections, at a information convention. “This election has witnessed untold violence. It will get worse and worse by the day.”

Final week, Wine filed a criticism with the Worldwide Prison Courtroom towards Museveni and 9 safety officers, accusing them of incitement to homicide unarmed protesters and authorizing the arrests and beatings of political figures and human rights legal professionals. Wine additionally alleged that the Ugandan authorities has repeatedly tried to kill him since 2018.

Previous Ugandan polls have been discredited by widespread allegations of rigging. The nation hasn’t peacefully transferred energy since independence from Britain in 1962.

Museveni has had the structure modified twice to legally stay in energy — as soon as to take away time period limits on presidents, the opposite to take away age limits. His subsequent time period can be his sixth.

Whereas allegations of unfair techniques are already mounting, this election nonetheless feels completely different, opposition supporters stated.

“You would need to be naive to suppose this can be a honest election. However what’s completely different is the surge of assist Bobi has from younger individuals who’ve had a tough life — the individuals who make up the poverty and unemployment figures that we hear about our nation,” stated Endurance Akumu, a human rights lawyer. “Bobi discovered deliverance on this life, rising to the place he’s. In him, they see the opportunity of their very own.”

Kemigisha sees herself in Bobi Wine. Like him, she grew up in a slum and has spent her life scrapping by. She migrated to Oman for 2 years the place she labored as a maid for poor pay, and when she got here again, she was crushed that what little cash she saved wasn’t sufficient to alter her station in life.

“There’s a chain of issues in that ghetto that women face: underage marriage, home abuse and lack of vanity. You’re consistently instructed that you’re nothing. That’s what our presidential candidate needs to alter, and that’s what I wish to change,” she stated.

“We respect the democratic course of, however I don’t count on my vote to be revered. If it’s not, then we’ll look forward to our candidate to present us a Plan B.”

Halima Athumani contributed to this report.

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