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Monday 18 January 2021

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A man leans on a closed kiosk with graffiti calling to free Ugandan opposition presidential candidate Bobi Wine, in Kampala, Uganda, Jan. 17, 2021.

Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine’s party said Sunday that it would challenge his loss in the recent presidential election.

"We have evidence of ballot stuffing and other forms of election malpractice and after putting it together we are going to take all measures that the law permits to challenge this fraud," Mathias Mpuuga of Wine's National Unity Party (NUP) told a news conference Sunday, a day after Uganda’s election commission declared President Yoweri Museveni the winner of the 2021 general elections.

Since seizing control of Uganda in 1986, Museveni, 76, has ruled the country continuously. He has dismissed claims of voting fraud in the recent election against Wine, 38, a singer turned lawmaker.

Sunday’s announcement from the opposition party came as two people were confirmed dead in protests since the election result, Reuters reported.

Both the U.S. and Britain expressed concern over the validity of the election results, noting the internet blackout throughout Uganda since before the election day.

Wine said Sunday that his polling agents have video evidence of voting fraud, but cannot make them public because of the internet blackout, the Associated Press reported.

“We urge authorities to address such irregularities and restore communications,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus tweeted Saturday.

On Sunday, Jake Sullivan, whom U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has chosen to be his national security adviser, tweeted:

“The news from Uganda is deeply concerning. Bobi Wine, other political figures, and their supporters should not be harmed, and those who perpetrate political violence must be held accountable. After this flawed election, the world is watching.”

Wine’s party also said Sunday that the opposition candidate and his wife are unable to leave their home, with soldiers surrounding the entrance and barring his colleagues and journalists from entering.

“Everyone including media and my party officials are restricted from accessing me,” Wine tweeted Sunday.

Legislator Francis Zaake, a Wine supporter who in the past has been arrested and allegedly tortured by security forces, was given access Saturday, only to be stopped at the roadblock. He was then pulled from his car and beaten before being thrown into a police van.

Electoral Commission head Simon Byabakama announced just after 4 p.m. Saturday local time that Museveni had won the election with 58.64% to Wine’s 34.83% of the votes cast in Thursday's balloting. Voter turnout was 52%.

Nine of Museveni’s cabinet ministers, including his vice president, did not win, according to the AP. Some lost to members of Wine’s party.

Byabakama called on Ugandans, especially those supporting those who lost in the election, to stay calm.

The U.S. Embassy in Uganda declined to observe the election after authorities denied more than 75% of its accreditation requests. On polling day, more than 30 election observers were arrested.

Zimbabwe Defense Minister Oppah Muchinguri says she will only take a COVID-19 vaccine if it is developed in Zimbabwe. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

By Columbus Mavhunga

Public health experts in Zimbabwe are condemning remarks by the country’s defense minister who accused China of botched "experiments" as responsible for the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has since distanced itself from the accusations made in a tearful interview as the defense minister mourned a fellow minister lost to COVID-19 on Friday. The minister also said she would only take a COVID-19 vaccine if it is developed in Zimbabwe.

Zhao Baogang, deputy Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Sunday said the embassy would only comment on the accusations by Defense Minister Oppah Muchinguri in the coming week after reaching Beijing as it was a “sensitive issue.”

In an interview with an online publication, which has gone viral on social media, Muchinguri , who is also head of Zimbabwe’s cabinet taskforce on COVID-19, said the pandemic was now decimating the southern African nation.

She said Zimbabwe has no vaccine yet and added that she is not going to take another nation’s vaccine. She wondered why Zimbabwe could not develop its own vaccine and hoped that a Chinese vaccine might be successful.

But in the same tearful interview, Muchinguri blamed China for the virus which has infected nearly 27,000 Zimbabweans, including 683 deaths.

Muchinguri asked isn’t there another serious upsurge of COVID-19 cases in China? She alleged it is China who had botched experiments, leading to the spread of the virus. She complained that China can’t reverse the spread anymore. "Look at where the people we call friends have taken us to.”

On Sunday, Muchinguri refused to speak about her interview when reached for comment.

Calvin Fambirai is executive director for Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights. He said his organization condemned the “reckless utterances” by Muchinguri, especially on the importance of a vaccine to contain the coronavirus.

“This bears testimony to the lack of capacity within government in handling the pandemic. Vaccines have been scientifically proven to work and have gone the rigorous clinical trials process. For a government minister to suggest otherwise, is irresponsible, and we hope the appointing authority will take disciplinary measures. The circumstances behind the origin of the coronavirus are still being investigated by WHO and we do not promote any xenophobic utterances on this matter. The focus must be on taming the spread of the virus, expanding health sector preparedness and planning for vaccine roll out,” he said.

In a move which analysts say is meant to avert a potential diplomatic fallout with China, Zimbabwe’s ministry of foreign affairs late Saturday, distanced Harare from Muchinguri’s remarks on the origins of the coronavirus disease.

Constance Chemwayi, foreign affairs spokeswoman, said Muchinguri’s sentiments did not reflect the position of the government of Zimbabwe.

She added, “Zimbabwe and China enjoy excellent relations. The government does not hold the Chinese government responsible for the emergence and spread of the coronavirus that has affected every global citizen. The government appreciates that China has exercised global leadership in efforts to find both the cause and a solution to the pandemic.”

Last year, Muchinguri was in the limelight after she took delight in the virus’ spread — then mainly in Western countries, such the U.S. — saying it was God’s punishment for imposing economic sanctions on the southern African nation. (VOA)

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