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Ugandan Opposition Candidate: Only Intimidation, Vote Buying Can Prevent Victory

Supporters of Uganda's main opposition presidential candidate Kizza Besigye gesture while standing next to an effigy of him during a Feb. 10 campaign rally in Kampala.

One week before Uganda's February 18 presidential and parliamentary elections, main opposition candidate Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), says he fears voter bribery could be one of the obstacles to his victory.

Besigye ran against President Museveni in three previous elections: 2001, 2006, and 2011.

Earlier this week, Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), will once again deflate what he called the Besigye "bravado" on election day.

Besigye said given the extremely high enthusiasm Ugandans have shown toward his campaign, perhaps Opondo was referring to the three previous elections that, he said, the government stole from him.

"Even in my previous engagements, I've never had a situation where even the poor peasants turn out and make financial contribution and bring materials, chickens, and food, and everything," he said. "If that demonstration of support is something that the government spokesman would like to brush aside as something that can be defeated, quite obviously he must have a different basis from what I will have as a basis for judging popular support."

Besigye said the NRM has never cleanly won an election.

"As you know, I have contested in three previous elections, two of which I challenged the outcome in the Supreme Court where the courts categorically and unanimously declared that the elections were not free and fair. And in such an election, it is ridiculous for anybody to claim that they are the victors because in an election where one party holds the whole process, they could even declare that they have a 100 percent of the vote," Besigye said.

Besigye said his campaign has enjoyed popular support throughout the country that only voter intimidation and bribery on election day could deny him a victory.

He also said if elected, he would form a national unity government that would include even members of the ruling NRM, something he said is the position of his party and enshrined in his election manifesto.

"We considered that any government that will succeed the NRM must function as a transitional government because it must establish or re-establish foundations of a democratic state. We have been governed over the past 30 years as a military dictatorship. As you may be aware, in Uganda's entire history since independence, no leader has ever handed over peacefully to another. If it happens this time it will be the very first time," he said.

Besigye condemned the arrest and continued detention of former intelligence Chief General David Sejusa for being involved in political activities, something the government said is in violation of Ugandan law for a serving military person.

Besigye said it is very evident that such "partisan" activity is only offensive if it is against President Museveni.

"We have many serving officers who are right now deeply and openly involved in the campaigns for Mr. Museveni party, all over the country senior members of the military and who no finger is being raised against at all, including of course the head of the Ugandan police who is also a general in the military who has been making very partisan statements and clearly intervening in a very partisan way. So, it is only the case that if you are a serving officer and your views are not aligned to those of Mr. Museveni then you are quite obviously in trouble," Besigye said.