KAMPALA (Reuters) – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, seeking a fourth term in office, will arrest his main opponent Kizza Besigye if he carries out his own vote count and announces the results, the presidency said on Wednesday.
Besigye said in October his party planned to hold a parallel count of the presidential election expected on February 18, to put pressure on the government and the president to speed up electoral reforms.
Besigye, leading an opposition coalition called Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC), plans to have agents at every polling station who will send results to a tallying centre.
He reiterated on December 6 while campaigning in eastern Uganda that he would announce his own results shortly after the polls close, local media reported.
The presidency said in a statement that Museveni, speaking to media on Tuesday in Jinja, eastern Uganda, had warned Besigye not to declare his own election results.
"The president said Besigye should not think this is Ivory Coast or Kenya. He warned that Besigye will be taking a short-cut to Luzira (maximum security prison). Museveni said even he himself cannot declare his own election results."
Museveni has said the electoral commission is the only institution authorised to declare presidential election results.
Museveni, in power since 1986, is facing a fierce challenge from Besigye, who has made deep inroads in the rural areas that are the president’s traditional support base.
Besigye says he was cheated of victory in the last two elections, in 2001 and 2006, citing rulings by the supreme court that both polls had been marred by massive rigging and intimidation of voters by the army.
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This presents a very challenging environment for everyone involved in the election. Museveni has "toughed out" calls from the United States (through the State Department) and others to open the Electoral Commission which he unilaterally appointed–and which has been deficient in the past as noted. Now he is threatening the election day operation of the largest grouping of opposition parties.
With the passage of time Museveni seems almost to court more controversy both domestically and internationally. Yet many knowledgeable observers see an opposition that is divided among so many candidates as not to have a real chance to defeat him at the polls this time even as his popularity seems to diminish. It would seem that Raila Odinga’s trip to campaign with Museveni on December 15 when the "Ocampo six" were named may reflect a desire on the part of both these politicians to show to the outside world that they can accept each other and do business on the basis of "realism" in spite of the past.
From the U.S. viewpoint, Museveni continues to receive military and security training and support associated with the AMISOM mission in Somalia, the regional role of Uganda and its military otherwise, and now perhaps in the context of renewed focus on addressing the LRA. Likewise, it is now clear that the Abeyei situation will remain outside the January referendum in Sudan, no matter how well that process may go. The situation in the DRC seems to deteriorate. So in totality what is the policy of the United States, the UK and EU toward the February election?
Are diplomats going to be willing to call the conduct of Uganda’s election as they see it? And if so, publicly or only privately? What about people providing technical assistance? What about the observation missions–diplomacy or assistance? In light of the new QDDR is it the policy of the U.S. administration that it is all diplomacy anyway? See also, “Democracy and Competing Objectives: ‘We need you to back us up.'”