Should he retreat to save lives or protest and draw the wrath of the state?
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | Opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine once again found himself in the shoes of former presidential candidate Kizza Besigye this week: how to deal with the aftermath of a presidential election he says he won. It is a well-worn path for opposition politicians in African countries.
It is a position Besigye found himself in after nearly all the four elections he contested in against President Yoweri Museveni.
Kyagulanyi, the leader of the largest opposition party, National Unity Platform (NUP), has called on Ugandans to protest peacefully for what he says was a sham election and also for the continued abductions of his supporters.
In a press conference held on March 9 at his party offices in Kamwokya, Kampala, Kyagulanyi assembled an avalanche of files which he said bore evidence of his win. He said he won the Jan. 14 election with 54.19% of the vote cast. The margin is almost similar to the one Besigye said he won the 2016 poll with- 52%.
At the press conference, Kyagulanyi echoed almost the same words Besigye used while protesting the last election outcome. “There must be an audit to this election. It must be overseen by an independent body. Election audits have been used in other countries including Sierra Leone, Haiti, Afghanistan,” he said.
Besigye had called for an international audit of the 2016 election but it never came to pass.
The Declaration of Results (DR) forms presented at the NUP offices were said to be over 25,000 in total although journalists were not allowed to access or count them.
NUP statisticians went ahead and uploaded data to the party website of what each presidential candidate scored and other polling details. According to the NUP site, Kyagulanyi garnered 6.1 million votes compared to Museveni’s 4.3 million votes with a percentage of 38. NUP data indicates that Kyagulanyi beat President Museveni by 1.7million votes.
According to the official Electoral Commission (EC), Museveni won the election with 58% of the votes cast with a vote tally of 6 million and Kyagulanyi polled 3.6 million votes with 35%.
The scores of other presidential candidates on the NUP site do not vary much from data provided by the EC, the body constitutionally mandated to organise elections and release election results. However there is a slight increase in the vote tallies of the eight presidential candidates except Willy Mayambala, per NUP statistics. NUP says Mayambala got 13,677 votes with 0.12% of the vote compared to what EC accorded him- 15,014 votes at 0.15%.
The rest of the candidates from John Katumba to Patrick Oboi Amuriat registered averagely 5,000 or 10,000 more votes according to NUP’s upload of the presidential election results.
NUP data also shows there was a higher figure of valid votes at 11.2 million compared to the EC’s 10 million.
A data analyst The Independent has spoken to says it will be hard for NUP to claim they won the election if they do not have tally sheets for each polling station and other data sheets for districts they won.
Bobi Wine and NUP say some of the tools they had assembled; such as the U-Vote app for relaying DR forms from polling stations across the country, were disabled when the government shut down the internet a day to the election.
Armed with his evidence, Kyagulanyi has called on Ugandans to protest peacefully the outcome of the election.
“Article 29 empowers us to demonstrate peacefully and unarmed against any injustice,” Kyagulanyi said as the way forward after presenting his evidence. Security forces meanwhile appear prepared to take on Kyagulanyi and his army of red.
Article 29 (1) (d) of the Constitution states that “Every person shall have the right to- freedom to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peacefully and unarmed and to petition; and…”
Gen. Muhanga back
According to sources close to State House, the same day Kyagulanyi made the call for peaceful protests, Maj. Gen. Kayanja Muhanga, the battle tested general who was in charge of security in Kampala before and after elections, had been summoned for a meeting with the Commander-in-Chief, President Museveni, at State House on March 9 to map out a response. The meeting was also attended by Maj. Gen. Paul Lokech, the Deputy Inspector General of Police.
This could only mean that the intelligence antennae had caught wind of NUP activities that day.
From the time Muhanga was appointed on New Year’s Day to coordinate security operations, the military undertook a scorched earth policy where NUP supporters were abducted by army units; including Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and other shadowy units.
A day before Muhanga’s appointment, Kyagulanyi’s entire campaign team numbering over 30 was arrested in Kalangala and they face charges in the military court martial. Abductees have said they are tortured while in detention.
According to Kyagulanyi, 200 of his supporters had been picked up in three days when he tweeted on March 10.
Mathias Mpuuga, the MP for Masaka Municipality and NUP vice president for Buganda region says they will not succumb to the terror and intimidation of the state because they are doing what is lawful.
“I stood with my president (Kyagulanyi) when he called for peaceful protests. Throughout his clarion call, we have underscored the term peaceful,” Mpuuga told The Independent, “We draw a clear distinction between lawful and constitutional rights and riots that are destructive.”
He says although it is difficult to have uniformity on how to protest peacefully, he and other NUP leaders have urged Ugandans to participate in protests because of the many injustices going on in the country.
On whether the security forces see the protests the same way and not as intent to cause instability, Mpuuga says “That is their business”.
“I do not draw my agenda from theirs,” he shoots back.