Uganda's 2021 Election
As president, Yoweri Museveni took power for his sixth term in Uganda, he ordered for his opposing candidate, Bobi Wine, to be placed under house arrest by the Ugandan government. While military forces surrounded Wine at his residence, most of his campaign team was detained in prison while the rest were on the run. Ambassador Natalie E. Brown of Uganda was unable to visit and supply him with food and milk for his 18 month old niece, further escalating the direness of the situation.
The Ugandan Government then issued a national wifi shutdown, claiming it would “prevent rumors” and fake news from spreading. With no wifi, Wine remained unable to prove any evidence of Museveni rigging the election, even after multiple allegations of his cheating. Also, this shutdown conveniently allowed the government to prevent foreign observers from stopping them.
However, Wine remains optimistic despite the violence and misrule he is experiencing. He is determined to prove the allegations of fraud once the shutdown is over, promising freedom to Ugandan citizens who have been under Museveni’s rule for the past 35 years. Additionally, as a result of the increasingly strained relations, the US might placed sanctions on Uganda despite being strong allies just a few years ago.
Prior to running, Wine had a successful singing career where he sang about government corruption and nepotism, thus making him a more relatable character among Ugandan citizens. Uganda is home to a huge population of refugees, and the results of the election are having a direct impact on them. Compared to the countries surrounding Uganda, it is still the most politically stable, especially compared to South Sudan which has endured multiple conflicts. If Mosevani were to use military control to establish his power, refugees could be at risk.
Ofwono Opondo, the government spokesman, wrote that foreign ambassadors should not "cry for Ugandans," stating current events in the United States should cause them to realize it is not their place to criticize the situation in Uganda. Also, Opondo says that ambassador Brown doubting the credibility of the election with no evidence to back it up is “aimless shooting.” Opondo indignantly stated in response to Brown, “What she has been trying to do blatantly is to meddle in Uganda’s internal politics, particularly elections, to subvert our elections and the will of the people,” he continued, “She shouldn’t do anything outside the diplomatic norms.”
Parallels can be drawn to our current political situation in the United States. The detaining of candidate Bobi Wine can be loosely compared to the Senate lockdown in the Capitol building during the Capitol Hill riots. However, the detaining of Wine was lasting and government- organized. What’s more, the protesting which took place at Capitol Hill worried the Ugandans about their election.
Many in Uganda are using the expression that their country has the “Trump Card,” meaning America has no right to tell Uganda how their election should be run when we still have some things to clear up regarding our own election. America is often thought of as the model of democracy, but the events at Capitol Hill and the innumerable allegations of fraud in the U.S. election place our reputation at risk.
The U.S. embassy continues to express its concern about the validity of the Ugandan results, but Ugandans have countered by telling the U.S. to focus on its own problems. In addition to the importance of regaining confidence in democracy in the US for our own good, it’s crucial that we have model democratic practices to guide other countries such as Uganda.