Uganda’s Bobi Wine urges ‘strong action’ over polls

Opposition figure Bobi Wine is disputing his loss in January's elections and wants international community to act

FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021 file photo, opposition presidential challenger Bobi Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, gestures as he speaks to the media outside his house after government soldiers withdrew from it, in Magere, near Kampala, in Uganda. Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni in Feb. 2021 has ordered the suspension of the multimillion-dollar Democratic Governance Facility fund backed by European nations that supports the work of local groups focusing on democracy and good governance. (AP Photo/Nicholas Bamulanzeki, File)
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Ugandan opposition figure Bobi Wine is urging the international community to back up concerns over the country’s disputed elections with “strong action” against President Yoweri Museveni’s government.

Mr Wine, 38, who is disputing his loss to the long-time leader in last month’s presidential elections, said he hoped “the world will stand with the people of Uganda".

“Gen Museveni, like all dictators, is not moved by words,” said the singer and legislator, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.

Mr Wine spoke by video link from his house on the outskirts of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, where he said he is effectively under house arrest.

“We hope that there will be more action following the strongly worded statements,” he said after international condemnation of the polls.

Mr Museveni is a US ally who took power by force in 1986 and has been elected several times.

He has collaborated with Washington to battle the extremist insurgency in Somalia. Uganda was the first to send troops to defend the government there.

But Mr Museveni’s ties with the West appear to be cooling as criticism grows over alleged abuses by his security forces and his extended stay in power.

He accused Mr Wine of being a foreign agent and said foreign meddling in Uganda “will not be tolerated.”

In January, Mr Museveni ordered the suspension of a multimillion-dollar fund backed by European nations that supports the work of scores of local groups, including government agencies, focusing on good governance, human rights and accountability.

The US and EU have said they were concerned about Uganda’s elections.

The US ambassador, Natalie Brown, recently told of “deep and continuing concern about the extrajudicial detention of opposition political party members, the reported disappearance of opposition supporters, and continued restrictions” on Mr Wine’s party.

His lawyers this week filed a legal challenge with Uganda’s Supreme Court seeking to nullify Mr Museveni’s victory and stop him ever running for the presidency again.

Mr Museveni has never lost in the courts and analysts predict the panel of nine judges is not likely to rule against him.

Mr Wine’s US-based attorney, Bruce Afran, on Thursday said he had compiled a report with evidence of widespread irregularities that his client claimed were perpetrated in favour of Mr Museveni.

The report has been shared with members of the international community, Mr Afran said.

He said one piece of the evidence of electoral fraud was Mr Museveni’s 100 per cent victories at some polling stations in his strongholds.

Mr Wine said his legal team had evidence from 20,000 of the East African country’s 34,000 polling stations.

Evidence from at least 10,000 others was confiscated by security officials who conducted night raids or waylaid opposition agents, he said.

Mr Wine’s party, which says 3,000 of its members are in detention, has told of soldiers stuffing ballot boxes, casting ballots for people and chasing voters from polling stations.

Mr Museveni won the January 14 polls with 58 per cent of the vote, while Mr Wine had 35 per cent, official results show.

Uganda’s election campaigns were marred by violence and an internet shutdown that remained in force until four days after the vote. Social media sites are still restricted.

Mr Museveni has dismissed claims of vote rigging, calling the election “the most cheating-free” since independence from Britain in 1962.