“I have regularly been beaten as well as also also pepper-sprayed on the campaign trail,” Wine, who escaped unhurt through the incident, told CNN in a phone conversation two days prior to the incident.
Following the incident, the conference organizers, Vanguard Africa, a nonprofit promoting democracy in African countries, filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court against Museveni as well as also also some other high-ranking Ugandan officials for “violations of international law governing human rights as well as also also crimes against humanity.”
Assaults on democracy
Wine, who regularly wears a helmet as well as also also flak jacket on the campaign trail, can be seen as the most prominent challenger, as well as also also his message has struck a chord with Uganda’s young people.
World Bank data shows three-quarters of Ugandans are under the age of 30 as well as also also have never known another president.
They have accused him of attacking the press, allowing military as well as also also police brutality, suspending opposition campaigning, as well as also also arresting activists in a bid to cling to power.
In an address to the nation on the same day, Museveni confirmed in which Facebook as well as also also some other social media was blocked, accusing them of “arrogance”.
Facebook told CNN on Monday This particular had removed accounts linked to the Government Citizens Interaction Center at the Ministry of Information as well as also also Communications Technology in Uganda for using “fake as well as also also duplicate accounts” to make the government “appear more well-known” than they were.
The President said in which any state interference in Bobi Wine’s attempts to campaign was because he has been violating health measures during the pandemic, saying in which the virus “has killed very many people in Europe as well as also also inside the United States.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday, he said in which Wine ran into “conflicts with the law,” because he defied bans on public gatherings.
However, Museveni himself has held campaign events as well as also also there have been calls through opposition candidates for Uganda’s Electoral Commission to sanction all parties who flout Covid-19 campaign guidelines, including the President’s.
The President added inside the interview in which he would likely “accept the results” if he lost.
“Uganda can be not my house… if the people of Uganda don’t want me to help them with their issues, I go as well as also also deal with my personal issues very happily.”
An iron grip on power
Museveni has maintained an iron grip on power in Uganda for nearly 35 years with help through Western allies as well as also also many say in which the US can be complicit inside the anti-democratic tendencies of their staunch military ally.
“The United States helps Museveni stay in power,” Wine told CNN on January 5. “If democracy can be important, they should reconsider giving Uganda money used to murder as well as also also oppress.”
“Museveni can be a smart player,” said Ken Opalo, an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, who has written on Museveni’s foreign policy. “He realized he could be a useful ally to the US inside the war on terror although also in stabilizing the Great Lakes region [of East Africa].”
This particular partnership means the US government plays a key role in “professionalizing” the military, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), says the State Department on its website. This particular has also received hundreds of millions of dollars worth of hardware through the US, said Opalo.
Museveni has proved useful, particularly inside the fight against terror, added Opalo. Since he seized power following a guerrilla struggle against the government, Uganda has been a source of regional stability, committing troops as well as also also working closely with successive US administrations.
Human rights groups as well as also also opposition candidates often accuse the security forces of abuse as well as also also blurring the line between military as well as also also police enforcement.
Arbitrary arrests, detentions, as well as also also beatings are common in Uganda.
“UPDF has been involved in incidents alongside the police,” Otsieno Namwaya, the East Africa director of Human Rights Watch, an NGO in which advocates for human rights, told CNN.
Neither the UPDF nor Ugandan police responded to CNN’s requests for comment on these allegations.
At least 45 were killed in protests in November sparked by the arrest of Wine as well as also also another opposition candidate, Patrick Oboi Amuriat, for breaking coronavirus regulations.
Since then, Wine has said he has been blocked through holding campaign activities many times. He has also accused security forces of shooting at as well as also also teargassing him.
Human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo was arrested on December 22 by a “security as well as also also financial intelligence” team for “money laundering as well as also also related malicious acts.” He helped Wine out of military detention in 2018, as well as also also has since been granted bail although the arrest was met with international condemnation.
The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee criticized Opiyo’s arrest as well as also also said This particular reflected “the dangerous environment” created to “marginalize as well as also also repress civil society.”
Wine’s bodyguard was run over as well as also also killed by a UPDF military-police truck, although a spokesperson for the Ugandan military denied This particular was a targeted attack.
All bark no bite
High-ranking US officials were vocal about the outbreak of violence inside the country late last year. On December 9, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs asked the State Department to “review all non-humanitarian assistance to Uganda.”
The next day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet the US was “paying close attention to the actions of individuals who seek to impede the ongoing democratic process.”
Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a Senate resolution on December 17 calling on Museveni’s government to “create conditions for credible democratic elections.”
Yet military aid has not been withdrawn, as well as also also the US continues to train Uganda’s soldiers, Opalo told CNN.
When contacted by CNN, Menendez urged Museveni to “allow the people of Uganda to participate in a transparent election as well as also also respect their will.”
“I am deeply concerned about the long-term consequences of This particular crisis for our nation’s credibility as we continue to support democracy around the entire world,” he told CNN in a statement. “On January 14, the Ugandan people must be given an opportunity to have their voices heard. The Museveni regime’s continued assault on political opposition, media as well as also also dissenting voices must stop,” Menendez added.
A cordial economic relationship
The US as well as also also Uganda have had diplomatic relations since 1962, following the East African country’s independence through the United Kingdom.
After Museveni seized power, Uganda became relatively stable as well as also also experienced economic growth. Uganda can be eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth as well as also also Opportunity Act as well as also also US exports include machinery, optical as well as also also medical instruments, wheat, as well as also also aircraft, says the State Department on its website.
Despite the rampant corruption, economic mismanagement, misuse of public funds, as well as also also discriminatory legal systems listed by the State Department, Uganda received at least $434 million in US foreign assistance in 2020.
A State Department Spokesperson told CNN in which the department can be “paying close attention to the actions of individuals as well as also also organizations who seek to impede the ongoing democratic process…”
Wine says he features a all 5-point plan which pledges to reduce corruption, although he knows he faces an uphill task. Museveni has seen off many worthy challengers during his tenure, as well as also also This particular time might be no different.
“Part of Museveni’s strategy can be to leverage all the instability around him as well as also also This particular’s worked for him; he’s stayed in power for 35 years. although This particular has been terrible for Uganda,” said Opalo.