Violence in the Road to Uganda elections 2021

Violence in this election has been unprecedented. It started in December 2017 when fistfights broke out in parliament during a controversial, but ultimately successful effort to amend the Constitution to remove the presidential age-limit and allow President Museveni to run again.

It continued into subsequent parliamentary by-elections and political mobilisation. Then came the coronavirus pandemic. Political rallies and gatherings were some of the first to be banned when the government imposed social distancing rules.

“It would be dangerous and even madness to conduct the election if the coronavirus is not contained by the end of July, President Museveni said in a television interview in May. “To have elections when the virus is still there will be madness. Countries like Iran went on with the elections when the virus was still around and it caused a lot of problems. It is very dangerous.” Yet the pandemic and the social distancing rules it forced have been used to stymie opposition candidates. Ruling party MPs were left to campaign freely during party primaries in October, only for opposition candidates to be battered when they tried to campaign.

When Bobi Wine was arrested in November on allegations of breaking social distancing rules while on the campaign trail, riots broke out in different parts of the country and at least 54 people were shot dead by security agencies. Subsequent reports indicate that many of those killed were not involved in the riots.

Patrick Oboi Amuriat, candidate of the biggest opposition party, FDC, has also been arrested several times and denied access to campaign venues.  Others have suffered a war of attrition. In December four human rights lawyers involved in documenting abuses were arrested and one of them detained for nine days before bail was granted. The bank accounts of at least four NGOs involved in civic education were frozen without warning, while journalists covering the campaigns have been targeted for assault or arrest.
Read also : United Nations rights Experts urge Uganda to rein in violent security forces and drop charges against political opponents

At the tail end of the campaign the Electoral Commission banned campaigning in about a dozen districts that it said faced the highest risk of the spread of the coronavirus. An investigation by a local newspaper, the Daily Monitor, showed that most of these districts had fewer cases than the national average. They also happened to be districts historically supportive of the opposition, and in which the leading opposition candidates were yet to campaign.

President Museveni also complained about not being allowed to campaign in those districts, but said he would comply with the EC directives and urged his rivals to do the same. Then he launched a series of ground-breaking and project launches — in his capacity as incumbent, not candidate — that just happened to be in many of the same districts. There’s never a dull election in Uganda.
Read also :  US Embassy Uganda Cautions against violence by police ahead of 2021 Elections, “We are Watching”

Frank Fremer is a seasoned journalist, blogger and political analyst for over a decade in Uganda

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