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Uganda election: blood, bribes, bullets!

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Never a dull moment: A ballot stained by blood, bribes, bullets

Published on January 11, 2021, The East African
Uganda election: blood, bribes, bullets!

Elections in Uganda have always been controversial. When the Catholic-leaning Democratic Party and its leader Benedicto Kiwanuka won the first election in 1961 just before Independence, the Anglican-aligned colonial government muddied the waters and arranged fresh elections the following year. They were dutifully won by the Anglican Uganda Peoples’ Congress and Milton Obote.

After being ousted by Idi Amin, Obote returned in 1980 to, once-again steal the election from DP this time under Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere. This gave Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and his National Resistance Army/Movement the justification to launch the five-year guerrilla war that brought him to power but little incentive for electoral reform.

Each of the five direct elections the country has had since 1996 have been marred by widespread vote-rigging, gerrymandering, violence and other unconventional barriers. For the 2006 election the main opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye, was nominated while in jail facing what were later declared trumped-up rape and treason charges.

In 2016, Dr Besigye was arrested on Election Day after he stormed a security location at which he claimed the results were being tampered with to favour the incumbent.

Yet the violence in this election has been unprecedented. It started in December 2017 when fistfights broke out in parliament during a controversial, but ultimately successful effort to amend the Constitution to remove the presidential age-limit and allow President Museveni to run again.

It continued into subsequent parliamentary by-elections and political mobilisation. Then came the coronavirus pandemic. Political rallies and gatherings were some of the first to be banned when the government imposed social distancing rules.



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