Ugandans go to the polls on Thursday after one of the keenly-watched and violent election campaigns in a era, because the pop star politician Bobi Wine tries to unseat Yoweri Museveni from his 34-year rule.
Wine is one among 9 opposition challengers, and has received the assist of many younger individuals in Uganda – the place the median age is 15.7 – along with his charismatic, anti-corruption message.
Many observers see the problem to Museveni, who at 76 is twice as outdated as his challenger, as emblematic of a continent-wide generational wrestle between ageing leaders who refuse to relinquish energy and youthful voters mobilising towards them.
Violent suppression of Wine’s supporters by safety forces factors to Museveni’s concern over the risk Wine poses to a sixth time period in energy, which was solely made attainable when MPs modified the structure to take away age limits. He has repeatedly accused Wine of being a “traitor” planning a foreign-backed rebel.
Helicopters and navy tanks have patrolled the skies and empty streets of the capital, Kampala, and different cities in latest days, within the newest show of the state’s drive.
Greater than 55 individuals died in November after Wine was formally confirmed as a candidate, and he has been detained and prevented from campaigning on a number of events. Members of his opposition Nationwide Unity Platform occasion and different opposition figures have been attacked and repeatedly arrested, purportedly as a result of Wine’s rallies are held in breach of Covid-19 restrictions.
On Wednesday, Wine, whose actual title is Robert Kyagulanyi, mentioned members of his safety element round his house have been ordered to depart. In latest weeks, safety forces have aggressively shut down his marketing campaign actions, together with dragging him from his automotive throughout a press convention final week. In December Wine mentioned his bodyguard had been killed by troopers. In an interview with the Guardian on the flip of the 12 months he described the marketing campaign as “a battle and a battlefield”.
Violence towards opposition figures and their supporters just isn’t new, however the extent of the crackdown has been stunning. “The brazenness of the violence is new,” mentioned Lydia Namubiru, a journalist and the Africa editor at Open Democracy. “It’s each as a result of he [Wine] is seen as a risk within the election but additionally due to what he symbolises.”
On Tuesday, Uganda’s communications regulator ordered web suppliers to dam all social media platforms and messaging purposes till additional discover, heightening fears of state-backed strikes to compromise the election’s integrity. Fb and Twitter have been amongst apps that grew to become inaccessible on a number of community suppliers within the nation.
Fb introduced on Monday it had taken down a community of faux and duplicate accounts linked to the nation’s data ministry.
On Wednesday, the US and EU mentioned they might not observe the elections, after a number of officers have been denied accreditation.
Museveni, who took energy in 1986, enjoys widespread assist, notably amongst extra conservative, rural and older voters who credit score him with financial and healthcare positive factors and rural improvement.
“I count on my candidate to win massively,” mentioned Prima Mbazi, carrying the yellow cap of the ruling Nationwide Resistance Motion occasion in Kampala, on the eve of the vote. “Our future is safe in his arms.”
“He has provided free main and secondary schooling for all youngsters from households to review; we entry well being providers in hospitals and a minimum of each village has entry to electrical energy. He must proceed to safe our future,” she mentioned.
On the marketing campaign path, the reminiscence of mass struggling beneath the Idi Amin regime within the 1970s underscores Museveni’s marketing campaign message of stability and continuity.
“When Museveni speaks, it’s all about how he rescued the nation when fundamental providers have been non-existent,” mentioned Namubiru. “However individuals beneath the age of 35 have solely a imprecise recollection of how issues have been then, and don’t really feel they have been liberated. They’re rising to turn into a big share of voters.”
Furthermore, Museveni’s message of financial progress jars with a harsh actuality, notably for youthful individuals, greater than 80% of whom work within the casual labour market.
Criticisms of political patronage beneath Museveni’s authorities have likewise grown in recent times. Elective positions have greater than doubled since 2006 to nearly three million officers – one for each 16 individuals, in response to civil society teams.
In Wakiso in central Kampala earlier this week, 21-year-old Aggrey Mark Tabuswa and a gaggle of Wine supporters rallied passersby on megaphones. “Bobi Wine is aware of our struggling,” Tabuswa mentioned. “He has handed by way of difficulties and seen all of it in life. He grew up in a slum. He’ll give us jobs.”
The issue of unseating highly effective long-term rulers was on sharp show in Uganda’s 2016 election, and expectations of a good and clear vote this time round are low.
Gerald Walulya, a lecturer at Makerere College, in Kampala, mentioned the election had already been considerably compromised. “The candidates have lacked the liberty they require to freely canvas for votes and this has undermined your entire train,” he mentioned. “The occasions, which have included blocking opposition candidates, harassing them, arresting them and killing their supporters, are more likely to discourage some residents from voting.”