When Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was the age of his main opponent, Bobi Wine, he too considered himself a “Freedom fighter”. Weapon in hand in the maquis, the guerrilla of the time, inspired by Marxism and the great figures of Pan-Africanism, fought against the dictators Idi Amin Dada, then Milton Obote whom he ended up overthrowing. It was 1986, and Yoweri Museveni carried the hope of the establishment of democracy, justice, the end of corruption and a new era. Promises long forgotten and for which the singer-turned-politician Bobi Wine, Robert Kyagulanyi, whose real name is fighting today.
But the “President of the ghetto”, 38 years old, is unlikely to embody the first peaceful alternation in the history of Uganda. At 76, his great adversary, the outgoing Head of State, is seeking a sixth term on Thursday, January 14, and after thirty-five years at the head of a politico-military regime, the autocrat is counting well, once again, to prolong his reign, one of the longest in Africa, by force. During the election campaign, his security services killed dozens of Bobi Wine supporters, as well as members of his team. They arrested hundreds, cracking down on intellectuals, human rights defenders and journalists. Bobi Wine, himself, has been arrested several times.
All social networks and messaging services, including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Signal and Viber, have been suspended in the country since Tuesday, January 12. Decision made after Facebook deleted accounts of accused presidential party officials and activists to “influence the public debate”.
The United Nations has expressed concern about “This disturbing development” of the situation in this strategic region of the Great Lakes, still weakened by political and diplomatic tensions between former guerrillas who have become authoritarian presidents. Yoweri Museveni knows this and plays it, amplifying the alleged risks of destabilization that the Uganda would pose to the “Criminal gangs”, as he describes his opponents.
With his party, the National Resistance Movement, the outgoing president controls all state institutions. Its authoritarian and clientelist governance allows it to maintain patronage networks and to preserve the interests of a business-like military elite remaining loyal to it. In the name of his past struggle for “Liberate the country”, Yoweri Museveni also granted himself the right to write the national narrative. A story of which he is the hero. “We will shame anyone who, unhappy with Uganda’s progress, thinks they can use this election to push us back”, he said, certain of his victory.
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