The leader of Uganda’s main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) told VOA opponents of incumbent President Yoweri Museveni will be participating in what he described as a totally sham election ahead of Friday’s presidential and parliamentary vote.
Dr. Kizza Besigye, a former ally of Mr. Museveni, said he chose to participate (as a presidential candidate) in an election that he described as “hugely flawed” because he has confidence in Ugandans’ demand for change, which he said could blunt the ruling party’s efforts to rig the vote.
“Ugandans have always supported change. In the last two elections, we had very strong support for change and that’s why the election in 2001 was the most violent in our history. And, in this election, it (the demand for change) has gotten bigger and that is because the level of discontent in the country has grown very big because of the kind of deprivation the population faces,” said Besigye.
“We are participating in a clearly sham election, fundamentally flawed, and that is without question. The election is being organized by an electoral commission, which is entirely serving at the pleasure of candidate Museveni. He has the power to, at anytime, sack any or all the members of the commission that are managing this election without reference to anybody.”
Besigye also accused the electoral commission of, in his words, repeatedly organizing elections that were widely described by Uganda’s Supreme Court as flawed and not in accordance with the country’s laws.
The chairman of the electoral commission, Badru Kiggundu, has promised “a free and fair election” Friday.
Official campaigning ends Thursday. Analysts say President Museveni, who abolished term limits in 2005, will win the presidential election, although his margin of victory has dwindled in each of the last three ballots.
Besigye said he expects the election will be seen as lacking in credibility.
“There are serious fundamental problems relating to the credibility of the election we are participating in. We are participating in it with the full knowledge of that. We have chosen to do so because of the belief that there is indeed an overwhelming support for change,” said Besigye.
“And, therefore, using the popular mandate that surrounds the change platform, we could overwhelm all those disadvantages. But, also that in any event, the crisis in our country will certainly become clear to everybody, because, up until now, the international community has been acting as if there are no problems in Uganda and, in fact, praises the 25-year military regime.”
Meanwhile, President Museveni is warning against any Egypt-style unrest following the national elections. He told reporters Wednesday that he will not tolerate those taking part in an uprising, saying “we would just lock them up.”
The president dismissed claims by third-time challenger Besigye that Ugandans are ready to rise up against his 25-year rule.
Uganda's election commission says about 14 million people are registered to vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections. These are the fourth elections in Uganda since the return of multi-party polls in 1996.
Mr. Museveni has ruled the country since seizing power in 1986.