Ugandan elections pit reggae singer with Museveni for long time By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Billboards for the elections of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and opposition leader and presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, are seen on a Kampala street

KAMPALA (Reuters) – Ugandans vote on Thursday in a presidential election that pits leader Yoweri Museveni against an opposition galvanized by a popular singer despite a campaign marked by brutal repressions. Reggae artist Bobi Wine, 38, is channeling the ire of many young Ugandans who say former guerrilla leader Museveni, now 76, is a disconnected dictator who fails to address rampant unemployment and mounting public debt. Museveni calls Wine an upstart who is backed by foreign and gay governments and says his administration ensures political stability and economic progress, including much-needed hydroelectric power dams and roads. Campaign violence has surpassed previous turbulent elections, with dozens killed when security forces cracked down on gatherings of opposition supporters. Opposition candidates, supporters and campaign personnel have been repeatedly detained. The government says it is stopping illegal gatherings during the COVID-19 crisis. The opposition says rally bans in parts of Uganda are a smokescreen for repression. “If you try to disturb the peace, it will be your fault. The security forces, following the law, are ready to deal with any rioters,” Museveni warned this week, dressed in a military camouflage jacket while speaking on live television. Although Wine has the momentum of energetic and aggrieved supporters behind him, Museveni remains the pioneer in winning with the well-equipped military and police behind him, analysts say. There are 17.7 million registered voters in Uganda and the polls will be open from 7am (0400 GMT) to 5pm on Thursday. The first results are expected to arrive on Saturday night. “The entire security apparatus will be on the streets. Theoretically, that brings calm, but I think we know that it only brings sources of tension,” said a senior European Union diplomat. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, has urged supporters to stay at the polling stations after the vote to observe the tally and take pictures of the results sheets and upload them to an app, U Vote. However, Ugandans reported problems accessing the internet on the eve of elections and internet monitor NetBlocks said the country was experiencing a nationwide blackout. The internet troubles came a day after Uganda banned all social media platforms and messaging apps until further notice. Museveni apologized for the inconvenience, but said Uganda had no other choice after Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 removed some accounts that supported its ruling party. University of Birmingham democracy professor Nic Cheeseman said that many who want to hear Wine’s call for change were too scared. “Previous polls show that the majority of voters do not believe in the change at the polls because Museveni is not ready to leave,” he said. Aggrey Musasizi, 31, a motorcycle taxi driver, told Reuters from his village in western Uganda that he had left the capital, Kampala, fearing violence, but would still vote for Wine. “It is high time we witnessed change in Uganda. We cannot continue in the situation where some of us have seen only one president in our entire lives.”