Uganda President Yoweri Museveni headed for landslide victory


Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni (L) stands in the line to queue before casting his vote on Feb. 18, 2011 at a polling station in the western Ugandan town of Kiruhura, 200 miles southwest of Kampala.


Simon Maina

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni headed for a landslide victory in the country’s Feb. 18 election, with more than two-thirds of ballots and 98 percent of polling stations counted.

However, his closest challenger Kizza Besigye, who on Saturday accused the president and electoral commission of rigging the vote.

Museveni won 68.28 percent support, while Kizza Besigye of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change took 26.12 percent, Badru Kiggundu, chairman of Electoral Commission of Uganda, told reporters Sunday in Kampala, the capital. Ballots had been tallied at 23,418 of the 23,968 polling stations, he said.

Many Ugandans complain their country is riddled with corruption and lacks investment in public services and infrastructure. But others respect Museveni for restoring stability and overseeing a period of sustained economic growth in a country previously plagued by despots such as Idi Amin.

Besigye, who was Museveni's doctor during the bush rebellion that brought the president to power in 1986, said there had been voter intimidation, bribery and anomalies in the voter register.

"The election day started very badly with the late opening of the polling stations in opposition strongholds," he told journalists late Saturday. "There has been widespread corruption involving the buying of votes and bribing our supporters and even candidates."

Besigye said huge sums had been used to buy votes and to bribe polling agents, candidates in the simultaneous parliamentary election, and electoral officials. But he stopped short of categorically rejecting the result.

"It is now clear the will of the people cannot be expressed through the electoral process in this kind of corrupt and repressive political environment," Besigye, once a close political ally of Museveni, told a news conference late on Saturday, Reuters reported.

Observers appeared to back Besigye's claim. "The lack of a level playing field and strong advantage of incumbency compromised the competitive nature of the poll," Dame Billie Miller, head of the Commonwealth observer team said in a preliminary statement on Sunday.

Campaigning had been largely peaceful and voting was reasonably calm but marred by pockets of violence, the former foreign minister of Barbados said.

The opposition planned to meet Sunday to plot its next move, according to Reuters. Besigye — who has contested the presidency three times — said his supporters could take to the streets and that the country was ripe for an Egypt-style revolt.

GloalPost's Tristan McConnell reported Friday that for the first two decades of Museveni’s rule, a brutal rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, terrorized northern Uganda forcing up to 2 million people to live in the squalor of huge camps for displaced people. Peace has returned to the region in recent years after the rebels were pushed into neighboring countries.

Although Uganda has attracted international attention over proposed anti-homosexual legislation that calls for the death penalty for some gay acts, neither Museveni nor opposition candidates focused their campaigns on the issue.