By Halima Athumani
KAMPALA, UGANDA - Uganda’s electoral commission on Saturday declared President Yoweri Museveni the winner of the 2021 general elections. Meanwhile, Ugandan military and police surrounded the home of opposition leader and presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, known as Bobi Wine.
Opposition leaders rejected the election results, saying they would not live like serfs and that the results were fabricated. On polling day, more than 30 election observers were arrested.
More than 10 truckloads of military and police personnel passed journalists who had camped a few meters from Kyagulanyi Sentamu, Wine’s house. Other military personnel carried out foot patrols nearby.
Wine's home was cordoned off by authorities and access in and out was blocked to the public, including journalists.
Legislator Francis Zaake, a Wine supporter who in the past has been arrested and allegedly tortured by security forces, was given access, only to be stopped at the roadblock. He was then pulled from his car and beaten before being thrown into a police van.
Reporters were kept at a distance, and as the police van went past, Zaake could be heard screaming inside.
Newly elected National Unity Platform legislator Joyce Bagala told journalists what she saw.
“I followed them to know where they were taking him, because ... he was screaming and you would actually hear the screams," Bagala said. "So I followed them to Kasangati police station. That’s where they dropped him. They pulled him out of the car, but I think he was badly beaten.”
Electoral Commission head Simon Byabakama announced just after 4 p.m. Saturday local time that Museveni had won the election, securing a sixth five-year term as president.
“Candidate Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa Kaguta, having obtained the highest number of votes in the election and votes cast in his favor being more than 50 percent of the valid votes cast at the election, the electoral commission declares Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa Kaguta elected president of the republic of Uganda,” Byabakama said.
Officials said Museveni won 58.64 percent to Wine’s 34.83 percent of the total votes cast in Thursday's balloting.
Byabakama called on Ugandans, especially those supporting the losers, to stay calm.
After the announcement, an eerie silence, empty streets and a heavy security presence prevailed. Voter Dennis Kimbugwe said he did not trust the results issued by the Electoral Commission.
He said he preferred to follow the voting from his location to confirm whether the person he voted for had won or lost. But he didn’t want to be told that he should go listen to the radio, adding that authorities had deployed the military.
He’s not alone. Kalibala John Bosco said it was time for the government to get rid of elections.
Bosco said Museveni should just bar elections if he feels he still wants to be president, because the current practice was frustrating for Ugandans. He said the government doesn’t count people’s votes and just does what it wants.
Efforts to get a comment from the ruling party failed, and party officials did not answer media phone calls.
The U.S. Embassy in Uganda declined to observe the election after authorities denied more than 75 percent of its accreditation requests.