News / Africa

    President Museveni Leads With 62% in Controversial Uganda Vote

    An electoral worker delivers boxes to a district counting center in Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 20, 2016.
    An electoral worker delivers boxes to a district counting center in Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 20, 2016.
    Lizabeth PaulatJill Craig

    New provisional results in Uganda's controversial presidential election show President Yoweri Museveni, in power for 30 years, leading with nearly 62 percent of the vote.

    A final tally is expected later Saturday.

    The numbers were released a few hours before the (4 p.m. local) deadline for final results, with 83 percent of the votes counted.

    Museveni's strongest challenger, Kizza Besigye, had 34 percent of the vote, and Amama Mbabazi had 1.5 percent.

    Election criticized

    The United States, international observers and a prominent human rights group have criticized Uganda's election process, alleging undue pressure, and in some cases undue force, by security forces on opposition candidates and their supporters.

    Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanj, right, head of Commonwealth Observers, greets former Zambian President Rupiah Banda after a news conference in Kampala, Feb. 20, 2016. Banda heads Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) mission.
    Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanj, right, head of Commonwealth Observers, greets former Zambian President Rupiah Banda after a news conference in Kampala, Feb. 20, 2016. Banda heads Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) mission.

    U.S.-based Human Rights Watch on Saturday expressed concern about Uganda's ability to hold free and fair elections, as well as Ugandans' rights to free expression and assembly.

    Maria Burnett, an Africa specialist for the group, said threats to Ugandans' human rights had been documented over the years, but in the days preceding the election, she said, "there was no hiding the brutality."

    She called on Ugandan security forces to respect peaceful protests and avoid excessive use of force in response to any confrontations.

    Uganda's main opposition leader, Besigye, was arrested for the second time in two days Friday as election results showed him running a distant second in the presidential poll to incumbent Yoweri Museveni.

    Witness reports

    Witnesses said police took Besigye and other top members of his party, the Forum for Democratic Change, away from their headquarters in Kampala. Police had fired tear gas into the building as party leaders tried to hold a news conference to talk about alleged election fraud by authorities.

    Police said Besigye was detained because he planned to announce election results, in violation of electoral laws.

    A police spokesman, Fred Enanga, told The Associated Press that Besigye has been taken to his home and said his movements were not restricted.

    Ugandan police block the media and others from accessing opposition candidate Kizza Besigye, as he remains under house arrest at his home in Kasangati, outside Kampala, in Uganda, Feb. 20, 2016.
    Ugandan police block the media and others from accessing opposition candidate Kizza Besigye, as he remains under house arrest at his home in Kasangati, outside Kampala, in Uganda, Feb. 20, 2016.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry voiced concern about the detention of Besigye and urged Museveni to rein in his security forces.

    'Call into question' results

    Kerry spoke on the phone Friday with Museveni, saying the police actions "call into question Uganda's commitment to a transparent and credible election process free from intimidation," the State Department said in a statement.

    Kerry also urged Museveni to end the shutdown of popular social media sites and money mobile services. The head of Uganda's Communications Commission said the social media sites were blocked for security reasons.

    Another presidential challenger, former prime minister Mbabazi, left his house with a police escort Friday.  Earlier, he had released a statement saying police were arresting people outside his residence, and he posted video of officers patrolling the streets.

    Besigye alleged that Thursday's election was subject to vote rigging, rendering it "unfree and unfair."

    His statement came after police briefly arrested him Thursday when he tried to enter a house he said was being used for the alleged rigging operation. Police said the house was a security facility and that Besigye was arrested for trespassing.

    A policeman argues with a supporter of opposition leader Kizza Besigye at the gates of his party headquarters, before police who had surrounded it raided the building, in Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 19, 2016.
    A policeman argues with a supporter of opposition leader Kizza Besigye at the gates of his party headquarters, before police who had surrounded it raided the building, in Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 19, 2016.

    Some polling stations did not open on time Thursday because election materials had not been delivered. The delay frustrated many would-be voters, some of whom spent hours waiting in line in the heat for their chance to cast a ballot.

    At one station in Kampala, police fired tear gas to disperse angry voters who had waited seven hours in line, only to find there were no ballots for the poll.

    Voting continued Friday in some parts of Kampala and the Wakiso district to make up for Thursday's delays.  

    About 15 million Ugandans were eligible to vote in these elections for president, parliament and local government seats. Museveni faced a challenge from seven opponents, most prominently Besigye, who has lost to him in three previous elections.

    Besigye has accused Museveni and the ruling NRM party of using poll-rigging and intimidation of voters to secure victory in those polls.

    VOA reporter James Butty contributed to this report.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: NIWAGABA ELIAS from: KAMPALA UGANDA
    February 29, 2016 7:18 AM
    we need term limits as Ugandans because how can someone lead a country for 40 years????? is he the wisest?????

    by: Andrew Kiggundu
    February 20, 2016 5:31 PM
    Your report is not accurate. It's sad that the Ugandan opposition leader who by being opposition to an incubation attracts sympathy but at the same time he is the same person who has publicly announced including in a televised debate, a campaign of deviance and disobedience. He did not respect police advise like a proposed leaders would do. Does his being opposition make him above the law?
    In Response

    by: winfred Nabbona from: kampala
    February 23, 2016 6:12 AM
    please America do something and by the way a defiance campaign means denying to obey an unconstitutional practices its exactly what doctor besigye was talking about jst to clarify

    by: OA
    February 20, 2016 10:25 AM
    There were serious vote rigging, the only results that holds credibility are the ones gathered and tracked down to polling stations. This time around, amidst heavy police brutality , voter bribery, partisan electoral cokes on and police, the people of Uganda were still decided to vote out this impostor (dictator) and they did but elections were heavily rigged, some were arrested by vigilante groups before the regime shut down the social media access, the regime also deliberately delayed /denied voting in opposition strongholds e.g Kampala and wakiso besides even rigging the little that were casted for change. There is not even a glimpse of democracy or freedom in Uganda.

    by: Adam from: Kampala
    February 20, 2016 7:28 AM
    America shd assist Ugandans to end this regime

    by: Marie Cosgrove
    February 20, 2016 6:09 AM
    There is so much corruption in Uganda that the corrupt people don't want a legitimate government because they would be brought to justice

    by: Kushaba David Murungi from: Mbarara District
    February 20, 2016 4:05 AM
    Ugandan elections have got 90% election irregularities.: Censorship of social media , Rigging, Intimidation, Late arrival of materials, misuse of biometric machine, arrest of top party officials, some ballot papers found ticked already, man handling youth between 20-40 years of age. If Uganda has an opposition that is not "Feigned opposition" then these irregularities render our elections invalid unless otherwise. Cl Dr Besigye should not sleep on his voters' blood. "Life costs blood".

    by: Hope from: Washington, DC
    February 19, 2016 4:55 PM
    My heart goes out to the youth and the elderly that have clearly not benefited from these elections. Thier voices have not been heard in anyway, as many couldn't vote, names not on voters' lists others didn't receive national IDs and the elderly who are leaving below poverty levels simply because they can't afford the basics or even just to leave their homes to go cast thier votes for their little pentions have not been given to them for months. It is very sad that the majority of Ugandans have actually not voted this time around, they leave in fear and have lost all hope. All the rest of us can do it to continue to educate the public about human rights and their right to vote.

    by: Andrew ARIM from: Kampala
    February 19, 2016 11:02 AM
    Besigye is winning in over 80 percent of polling stations around the country .. but the Electoral Commission is reading different results ... doctored by the military before handing it over to the Electoral Commision. God Help Us

    by: Donald in Maryland from: United States
    February 19, 2016 10:29 AM
    Poor Uganda. Democracy without a credible democratic dispensation, the citizens lose hope.

    by: JR from: BRA
    February 19, 2016 7:18 AM
    Of course, there were riggings in the two prevailing elections in Uganda. The incumbent president thinks in his own benefits, for him doesn`t matters if the population is passing hungry or not. Whitout free and fairness in election process is impossible for the peolpe to overcome the poverty that flows over most African countries.

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