Feb 18, 2016 Uganda Election Day. Kampala, Uganda.
Today is a big day for Uganda. One of the biggest in recent history.
Holy! I just looked up at the television showing elections taking place as I started writing this and across the screen it says, "Besigye Arrested." Kizza Besigye is the opposition leader to the current president Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.
President Museveni, has been in office from January 1986 to now. Actually, I just looked the dates up on Wikipedia to confirm Museveni's office-time served and it states, "In office - 29 January 1986 - Soon Ending." It actually reads "Soon Ending" on Wikipedia. I checked the last time the page was modified, and it says, "Last edited 1 hour ago by an anonymous user".
Wow. Wishful thinking or someone who knows something...
So, I do not pretend to know much about the situation here in Uganda, but from local word of mouth, Museveni has been the president for 30 years. He is 71 years old and people here have been telling me that they want change. They say he needs to retire. Ugandans use the word "dictator" to describe him. I have spoken to many people about the elections in the past few days and everyone has voiced the same opinion; they all desire a different Uganda. They are tired of the corruption. They are tired of the oppression. Not one person has told me they will vote for Museveni.
Museveni is the richest person in the country. The richest person in the country of Uganda is the president... That is certainly something to think about while you consider that Uganda is the poorest country in a group with Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya...
In February of 2011, an election took place where Museveni was re-elected, though the results were disputed by both the European Union and opposition leader Kizza Besigye. Heresay in Uganda has it that Besigye actually won the election, however, Museveni had results rigged for a corrupt win. On April 28th of the same year, Besigye was arrested during "Walk to Work" protests against the inflating costs of living. Riots ensured in Kampala.
So, there is quite a history leading up to today...
On television, there have been commercials with Ugandan celebrities speaking for "I Pledge Peace 2016 - Whoever wins or loses, peace should be the ultimate victor. Stay away violence , bribery, and multiple voting. Voting is the last form of democracy. Focus on issues that benefit your committee. For a good future for our children and a better Uganda. Go and vote, for your ballot is your voice, go and make it count. On polling day, don't stand around and watch. Peace, democracy, human rights, and not violence."
Social media has been cut off by the Uganda Communications Commission today with their reasoning of "security reason" and giving us no more information. There has been no access to Facebook, Twitter or Whatsapp for the entire day. We are cut off from the rest of the world as the elections take place.
People are predicting riots depending on who wins the polls...
The government had issued threats to the media for releasing information and impending results before official numbers are released to the public. So, all information coming through the television, and polling results in certain areas were announced by the newscasters with, "And a reminder to our viewers at home, that these are just 'provisional results' and the electoral committee and commission is in charge of the final results. A reminder that there are just provisional results!" Provisional Results has been the most common expression used today, as all news anchors are afraid of the information they are sharing.
This afternoon the streets were empty in Kampala and the very noisy city was silent. Businesses were closed as precautionary measures due to concerns about the worst possible outcome. The cook of the hotel I am staying in did not show up for his shift to make breakfast. It was difficult to find an open restaurant.
I walked past polling stations today and looked at the line-ups of people to cast their vote. Reporters were on hand at specific stations and as the votes were being counted, they were read aloud on live television. "Besigye. Besigye. Besigye. Museveni. Besigye."
Officials permanent-markered the cuticle of the right thumb of each voter to show who had already cast their ballot.
1,250 outside observers were sent to the polling stations in an attempt to keep results official.
Besigye, Museveni's former doctor, ended his campaign 2016 saying that the elections would be neither free nor fair...
Besigye was arrested today. Analysis on television has assumed that he was set up. Behind the scenes, a Besigye arrest makes people wonder about how to trust him on the day that they are voting. Initially, there had been no indication as to why the leader of the opposition had been arrested. With no social media, it seems easier to control the citizens from behind the scenes...
Later, news was released by Besigye's "Forum Democratic Change" party senior official Shawn Mubiru. Mubiru stated, "He (Besigye) was in his home district where he voted when he got information that there was an illegal tally center manned by the NRM (National Resistance Movement) and police. He walked in and saw them pre-ticking ballot papers. They arrested him and took him to an unknown place."
Besigye had attempted to confront probable illegalities against his candidacy and the rival party in charge decided to have him arrested...
It is 20:31 and people are yelling in the streets.
It is now 23:47 and the streets have gone silent. We were supposed to find out the results of the polling count tonight, but no information has come though. Perhaps corruption is taking more time to corrupt the voting system than they had originally expected...
The sad reality of a dictator state....
Well, today was relatively quiet as provisional results for the polls began coming in for the Ugandan election. The 30 year dictator, Yoweri Museveni, is in the voting lead, but his position is not with accusations of scandals and corruption. Opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, the only other real competitor in the election, has been arrested again today by local authorities. He has now been arrested two times in two days (his third arrest this week). Something in the air stinks about this and it is clear that there is dirty business going on behind the scenes.
Police announced that the arrest of Besigye, an outspoken candidate and an enemy of Museveni, is to prevent him from announcing his own election results. Besigye and his supporters have been vocal about the election being rigged by Museveni. Museveni has been in power since taking over with a military coup in January 1986. (Pre-2006 elections, Museveni campaigned to change the limitations on terms for which a president in Uganda could hold office).
Besigye supporters say that Museveni is running an unfair election and continues to bully the opposition. By arresting Besigye, it makes the opposition appear unstable in an attempt to alter the psyche of Besigye supporters. The word from police is that they have arrested Besigye on accusations that he planned to announce "purportedly final results" which would be "disturbing public order". Opposition supporters say this is purely an intimidation tactic which police have termed a "preventative arrest".
Voting was supposed to conclude yesterday, but it has been extended through today in some of the polling stations where voting materials arrived late yesterday. There have been issues with voting materials arriving late at the known polling stations of strong opposition support. Now, with instability considerations do to Besigye's arrest, polling stations were once again ready for voters to make their choice.
Police have fired tear-gas and stun grenades to eradicate Besigye supporters. Yesterday, when Besigye was arrested, it was because he received word that an illegal tally center manned by the NRM (National Resistance Movement) were pre-ticking ballot boxes. Pure corruption is what is taking place here during this time.
At 13:38, there was teargas fired off close to my hotel room located across the street from the New Taxi Park. I heard the shots and then yells, followed by the sound of a running crowd. I stepped out on my 3rd floor balcony to see the smoke of the teargas about 200 meters down the street. The taxi stand immediately began to clear out with mini-vans far from full, which if you have ever been to Africa you will know that this is a complete anomaly.
However, after time more tear gas was shot off down the street and people began to get used to the situation. When more shots of teargas were launched just out of harm's way of the mass crowd, people just carried about their day in the streets. At least five teargas explosions went off through the afternoon and the shots started being greeted with sarcastic cheers from the locals at the New Taxi Park.
We are still under a government shutdown of Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp. Now, word has it that CNN has been turned off as well. Museveni has been the only candidate who has been allowed on television or radio during this time.
At street level in Kampala, it does not feel dangerous, but there is an uneasy underlying issue that one sure can feel in the air.
At 02:00, I went to bed in a silent city.
Results are to come through tomorrow.
The suspense has built until today, though it was clear that the incumbent Yoweri Museveni would win the 2016 Ugandan election for presidency over Kizza Besigye.
Also, obvious to everyone who has paid even the slightest amount of attention to the past two days is that corruption has prevailed and has been in control of the election. Today, a European Union governing committee on hand was pleading for electoral fairness on national television. Everyone can smell the skunk.
All of social media is still shut down by the government. Many people are unhappy about the control the government has taken during this time.
The ticker at the bottom of the television station that has been showing the election exclusively had this to say... - Police armored trucks have arrived in Uganda. - The African Commonweath has referred to Ugandan's "Crime Preventers" as "A State Sanctioned Militia". - "Follow Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube for accurate and balanced news." - Ugandans urged to remain calm after the results of the election. - No matter who wins, and no matter what you choose as your party of allegiance, you are all still Ugandans.
Around 15:30, many armed soldiers arrived in downtown Kampala to take charge of the situation should any public backlash to the election results occur.
Just before 16:00, the announcement was made.
Results: Yoweri Museveni with 60.75% of the votes. Kizza Besigye with 35.37% of the votes.
To no one's surprise, Museveni once again won the elections. When he completes this next term, at 76 years of age, he will be 35 years at the helm as head of state in this country.
Very little acknowledgement or reaction took place on the street below to the official announcement; it was merely business as usual to the Ugandans. Riots have taken place for most recent elections in this country, but somehow this one passed without issue. The streets remained reasonably quiet. Perhaps people have given up on democracy...
I spent the afternoon with Stella, my local friend. She told me that during the 2011 elections, her brother was a military soldier. He told her that word was sent down that if Museveni would win that election, that the military was to just stand pat. But, should he lose the election, they were to start shooting people to start the war...
The 2016 Museveni "victory" we were apart of today kept him from tearing up the country in a civil war.
Everyone everywhere has recognized that nothing was real in this election except for the corruption. I have yet to meet anyone who told me they voted for Museveni. It has been three dirty and foul days in this impoverished country. People are saying that the voting percentages were set up. The community of Kasense, strongly in favor of opposition leader Besigye, complained earlier that their votes were not announced. By word of mouth, Kizza Besigye was the clear winner of this election, just as he is said to have won the 2011 campaign. However, corruption once again intervened. Just as Besigye predicted as he finished his campaign - the elections were neither free nor fair...
It is a sad day in Uganda. Another five years of no change, tattered clothing, no jobs, terrible infrastructure, and the worst conditioned vehicles on the road of any developing country I have ever visited, their hearts are broken again.