Uganda’s constitutional court yesterday approved removing the presidential age limit of 75 years, a ruling that would potentially allow President Yoweri Museveni to extend his three-decade rule. It endorsed parliament’s decision to scrap the cap in December that drew accusations from opposition parties that the 73-year-old Museveni wanted to be president for life and brought protesters onto the streets. “The removal of age limit may encourage an incumbent to wish to keep himself in office perpetually but the citizens still retain the power to either return the same president or elect a different one,” said Elizabeth Musoke, one of three judges who endorsed the amendment. One of the five judges said no, another had yet to deliver his verdict.
Debate on age limits and term length for the president of Uganda came to a sudden halt Tuesday when a lawmaker reported seeing soldiers on the premises. The allegation led to a scuffle between legislators and parliamentary police. The legislature was already on edge because of the proposals being discussed. Parliament is debating a bill that would abolish the age limit for 75 presidential candidates, a move that would enable longtime President Yoweri Museveni to run for another term in the 2021 election. Opposition lawmakers and some members of the ruling party object to the bill, and debate that began Monday has been tumultuous. On Monday, shouting and chair-throwing forced Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to suspend six members of parliament.
In his inaugural speech, after being sworn in as the new Electoral Commission chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama made a passionate plea to Ugandans especially critics to give him time to deliver on his mandate. In making the plea, Justice Byabakama was well aware of the documented lack of confidence in the electoral body and did not shy away from taking note of this, before stating his credentials of being “independent”. “I am coming from a background were being independent is a prerequisite of exercise of the judicial power. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not about to throw off that gown and leave it in court,” he said. Unfortunately for him, Justice Byabakama has in the past been found to have thrown off that “gown” particularly during his time at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Seven out of 10 Members of Parliament are opposed to the lifting of the Presidential age limit from the Constitution, according to a new study. This is entailed in a new survey released by the Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy on Uganda (CCEDU) on Parliamentary Attitudes to lifting Presidential age limit conducted between September 16 and October 7, where 185 were interviewed. The MPs in the report also supported the restructuring of the Independent Electoral Commission (EC), arguing that this will guarantee the public free and fair elections in future.
Uganda’s Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to the presidential election held in February, issuing a ruling on Thursday that secured President Yoweri Museveni a mandate for another five-year term. He has been in office since 1986. The vote last month, seen as a pivotal moment in Uganda’s democracy as the last time Mr. Museveni will be legally allowed to appear on a presidential ballot, was marred with irregularities and widespread criticism. The legal challenge by the third-place finisher, Amama Mbabazi, argued that Mr. Museveni was not validly elected and that Uganda’s electoral commission had disseminated false results, among other allegations. It requested a recount in more than 40 districts.
Ugandan opposition parties are faced with a familiar conundrum—fairly sure that the election they just lost was rigged, but unsure how to prove it. There is evidence that President Yoweri Museveni’s main challenger, Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), made significant gains in many parts of the country, especially urban areas. It is also clear that intimidation and repression were widespread, including the repeated detention of Besigye in the weeks of and after polling day. But neither domestic courts nor international election monitors are likely to declare an election unfree or unfair on the basis of this kind of background manipulation, although both the European Union and U.S. State Department found the election process to be marked by a lack of transparency and worrying irregularities. At the end of the day, it is only hard evidence of ballot box stuffing or faulty vote tallying that is likely to sway them. So, do the results, published by the Electoral Commission (EC) in almost complete form towards the end of February, point to a rigged election? And if so, how was it done?
In closing arguments yesterday in the Supreme court, lawyers for Amama Mbabazi, the main challenger to President Museveni’s re-election victory, worked harder than ever to prove the charges of voter bribery, intimidation and disenfranchisement of voters against the president. But without supporting evidence, the lawyers came for tough questioning from Chief Justice Katureebe. They also couldn’t prove that discarding the old voters’ register by the Electoral Commission affected the outcome of the presidential and parliamentary elections. The Mbabazi lawyers however, did a good job poking holes into the Electoral Commission’s handling of polling on election day and the final declaration of results. In his robust presentation, Mbabazi’s lead counsel, Mohmed Mbabazi, told court that President Museveni’s victory should be nullified because the Electoral Commission did not rely on hard copies of the declaration of results forms and tally sheets from districts when declaring the winner.
Chief Justice Bart Katureebe must have felt a sense that he had been here before as he led eight justices of the Supreme Court in Kampala on March 7 to the pre-hearing conference of a petition against the Feb. 18 presidential election. In the petition,one of the losers; former presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi is seeking nullification of the incumbent, President Yoweri Museveni’s election on 43 grounds which include non-compliance with the law, vote stealing, and intimidation of voters and agents by security forces. Justice Katureebe is the only one of the nine justices hearing the petition to have been in a similar position before. In 2006, he was on a panel that heard another petition brought before the Supreme Court against the election of the same respondents, including President Yoweri Museveni, the Attorney General, and the Electoral Commission.
In the Supreme court yesterday, the nine justices rejected a request for a presidential vote recount by lawyers representing Amama Mbabazi in the petition challenging the results of the February 18 presidential election. The request, which can still be entertained in the course of the main hearing, sought to compel the Electoral Commission to recount votes in 45 districts, before the petition is heard. “The law doesn’t give vote recount as a preliminary relief…” said Bart Katureebe, the chief justice and head of the nine-panel judge.
Suspected burglars broke into the offices of two of Amama Mbabazi’s lawyers on Tuesday night and reportedly made off with computers and case files. Though the lawyers did not report the cases to the Uganda Police Force, the police have now gone to the offices of the two lawyers, Fred Muwema and Muhammed Mbabazi, to carry out investigations. “I think the police should come to tell us that they [the police allegedly] broke in because they were here,” said counsel Mbabazi during a televised interview. He ruled out going to the police to report the incident. “The police were seen to have come here. They came, they [allegedly] broke [in and] they took away whatever they took. So I report to whom? They should be the ones to come and tell me ‘we came in, we didn’t find you then we broke in’.”
Independent presidential candidate Mr Amama Mbabazi has finally filed his petition before the Supreme Court, challenging president Yoweri Museveni’s victory in the February 18 elections. Journalists who had been waiting to cover the petition in the Kampala based court since morning breathed a sigh of relief when Mr Mbabazi’s lawyers arrived at the court, from downtown Kampala, at 5:07pm. The court’s registrar Tom Chemtai received the lawyers and took them through the requirements for a petition. He spent four minutes on this. Among other requirements, the lawyers had to pay Shs400, 000 to file the petition and Shs1 million, which serves a security for costs in case the petition fails, which they did.
One of the candidates who sought to end Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s thirty years in power in last month’s presidential vote filed a petition on Tuesday seeking to nullify Museveni’s victory due to widespread irregularities. Museveni, 71, who came to power in 1986 and is one of Africa’s longest-serving rulers, won the Feb. 18 vote with 60 percent of the votes. Former prime minister Amama Mbabazi, Museveni’s ally-turned-challenger, won less than two percent of the vote, but has accused Uganda’s security services of intimidating candidates and has questioned how the votes were tallied. Opposition candidate Kizza Besigye, who won 35 percent of the vote but has dismissed the tally as fraudulent, missed Tuesday’s deadline, with officials from his party saying Besigye’s repeated detentions had made it impossible to mount a challenge.
Opposition stalwart Kizza Besigye has said that the February 18 general election was the worst in Uganda’s history. But how was the election rigged? Collating anecdotal evidence, SADAB KITATTA KAAYA attempts to explain how the alleged rigging happened. When the presidential and parliamentary elections ended on February 18, a fierce public debate over alleged vote rigging began and hasn’t relented since. The opposition set the tone and the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) offered the much-needed supporting arguments in its preliminary assessment of the entire electoral process.
The electoral commission of Uganda is prepared to meet the legal challenges opposition presidential and parliamentary candidates plan to launch this week following the outcome of the February 18 general election, says Jotham Taremwa, spokesman for the electoral commission. Main opposition leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Kizza Besigye and independent candidate Patrick Amama Mbabazi dispute the results of the poll. They have signaled they would be going to court, citing voter irregularities and rigging they said led to incumbent President Yoweri Museveni’s victory. Uganda’s electoral law says challenges can be filed up to 10 days after results are announced.
A European Union mission urged Uganda on Thursday to release detailed results from last week’s presidential election, which extended President Yoweri Museveni’s 30-year rule but which the opposition has called fraudulent. Uganda’s Electoral Commission declared Museveni, 71 and in power since 1986, the winner of the Feb. 18 vote with about 60 percent of the vote. The EU’s Election Observation Mission statement was released soon after an aide to Kizza Besigye, the main challenger, said Besigye had been arrested for the sixth time in about a week. Besigye, who challenged Museveni in three previous elections, was also blocked from leaving his house on Wednesday, when local elections were held across Uganda. Human rights groups say they have been blocked from meeting with him.
Uganda’s main opposition party says it’s working hard to gather evidence to legally challenge the outcome of the February 18 general election. Uganda’s electoral law says challenges can be filed up to 10 days after results are announced. Mugisha Muntu, chairman of the Forum for Democratic Change, said the party was doing everything possible to meet the deadline, despite what he said had been continuous harassment and intimidation by state security operatives. Muntu noted that the intimidation followed the frequent arrests and subsequent release of Kizza Besigye, the FDC presidential candidate. “We started gathering evidence on Saturday, right after we found out that there were huge discrepancies between what was being announced and what we’ve been gathering from our own polling stations,” he said. Since then, he added, “our presidential candidate … has been taken to the police cells several times.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday backed concerns of international observers about shortcomings and irregularities in Uganda’s elections and urged all parties to settle any disputes peacefully. Neutral observers have criticized the government for using security forces against opposition candidates and supporters, and tensions rose Monday when police arrested President Yoweri Museveni’s main challenger, Kizza Besigye. The electoral commission announced Saturday that Museveni won the vote with more than 60 percent of counted ballots, while Besigye got 35 percent. Museveni needed 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff election. The 71-year-old Museveni, a key U.S. ally on security matters, seized power in 1986 and has led Uganda for 30 years.
Police arrested Uganda’s main opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, for the fourth time in eight days on Monday, after an election that the United States and European Union have criticised and the opposition reject as fraudulent. Police also stormed Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party headquarters and arrested eight people, one member said, two days after President Yoweri Museveni, 71 and in power for 30 years, was declared the winner of the Feb. 18 vote. The EU observer mission said the vote had been conducted in an “intimidating” atmosphere and United States has voiced concerns about the frequent arrests of Besigye. Police said they detained Besigye as he was preparing to lead supporters to the Electoral Commission headquarters in the capital Kampala to collect the official results, and that he had not obtained government consent. “We have arrested people who are planning to cause violence in Kampala city centre,” police spokesman, Patrick Onyango, said.
The United States has criticized the handling of Uganda’s disputed presidential election and raised concerns about the house arrest of an opposition leader who failed to end President Yoweri Museveni’s 30-year rule. Museveni, one of Africa’s longest serving leaders and a U.S. ally, was declared winner on Saturday but opponents rejected the outcome of the election. European Union and Commonwealth observers have also criticized the handling of Thursday’s poll. Main opposition candidate Kizza Besigye was arrested three times this week and alleges the police have put him under house arrest and blocked his electronic communication. Besigye has described the election as a sham and another challenger, Amama Mbabazi, said the poll was “fundamentally flawed
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s security forces used strong-arm tactics in the middle of an election Friday, arresting the main opposition candidate, beating protesters and firing tear gas and stun grenades at them in the capital. The United States, which gives financial support to Uganda and helps train its military, was among those condemning the brutal actions. It occurred as voting from Thursday’s election continued in two main districts Friday because ballots and other election materials had not arrived on election day. Early returns Friday put Museveni ahead of opposition leader Kizza Besigye, but votes remained to be cast and counted in Besigye strongholds in this East African nation. With results from about 47 percent of polling stations across the country counted, Museveni had about 63 percent of the vote and Besigye had about 33 percent, the election commission said late Friday. Final results are expected on Saturday.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni won a fifth term on Saturday, extending his three-decade rule in a vote rejected as fraudulent by an opposition leader under house arrest and criticised by the international community. The veteran 71-year-old won 60 percent of the vote in the sometimes chaotic elections, far ahead of the 35 percent garnered by detained opposition chief Kizza Besigye, whose house was surrounded by dozens of armed police in riot gear. Large numbers of police and troops have been deployed on the streets of the capital Kampala, which appeared calm immediately after the widely expected victory for Museveni was declared. Besigye slammed the results as a fraud, saying in a message to the international community: “Should you ratify the results of these sham elections, at least have the courage to admit that you do not care about democracy or human rights in Africa.”
Opposition supporters stormed out of a tallying center on Friday amid mounting allegations of vote rigging, as an early count from this week’s disputed election showed Uganda’s authoritarian President Yoweri Museveni on track to extend his three decades in office. Opposition supporters said the partial results showing 62% of the vote going to Mr. Museveni didn’t match results collected at individual polling stations by their operatives. “We know how Ugandans voted, and what is being announced is not what is on the ground,” said Ingrid Turinawe, a spokeswoman for the main opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change. “We will not be party to this fraudulent process.” Electoral Commission head Badru Kiggundu rejected the allegations. “We are announcing results as sent to us from the districts,” he said, with about 15% of votes from Thursday’s contest counted. FDC leader Kizza Besigye was in a distant second with about 34% of the vote.
Ugandans started casting their votes on Thursday to decide whether to give Yoweri Museveni, in power for three decades, another term in office. Voting at most polling stations in the capital, Kampala, was yet to start 90 minutes after the official opening of polling at 7 am local time (0400 GMT), leading to concerns among some voters. “If the voting time is reduced like this there will be many people who will not be able to vote,” said Dickson Mamber, a 34-year-old history teacher, who had been waiting in line for two hours at Muyembe polling station in Kampala. Voting at the station still had not started by 0545 GMT. All sides contesting the election accuse each other of stoking tensions and assembling vigilante groups, and the leading opposition candidates have predicted vote rigging.
The arrest of a top presidential candidate has caused outrage in Uganda just days before the country heads to the polls to elect a new president. Police fired tear gas to disperse crowds of opposition supporters who gathered to demand the release of Kizza Besigye who was briefly detained on Monday. “The arrest followed chaotic scenes as Besigye campaigned in parts of Kampala” ahead of Thursday’s election, the state-run New Vision newspaper reported. The three-time presidential candidate who heads the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party has been repeatedly arrested in past campaigns, and has been described as current president Yoweri Museveni’s “perennial nemesis”. This year seven opposition candidates are vying to contest Museveni’s attempts to win a fifth term in office, but Besigye’s FDC party officials accused the government of blocking their efforts to address supporters in the city centre.
Ugandan police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up a crowd of opposition supporters and briefly arrested a leading opposition candidate on Monday, raising tensions ahead of elections widely seen as close. Ambulances carried the injured after the police used force to break up supporters of presidential candidate Kizza Besigye near Uganda’s Makerere University in the capital. Mr Besigye defied orders to follow a less crowded route to the university, where he had planned to hold a rally so police fired tear gas and shotguns to quell a crowd of his supporters, said Fred Enanga, police spokesman.
Uganda’s electoral commission plans to meet with both local and international poll observers on Monday ahead of the February 18 presidential, parliamentary and local elections. The electoral officials say they will brief the poll monitors about preparations made so far to ensure the polls are free, transparent and credible. They also said the electoral commission would seek to inform the poll observers what is expected of them during the elections. The electoral body has so far approved about 2,000 poll observers who would be deployed across the country to monitor the elections. “They have been coming in to pay courtesy calls to also ask a few preliminary questions. They have been around so we think they also have notes they have made through their observations since we accredited them, and on Monday we will share with them and to learn something from them,” said Jotham Taremwa, spokesman for the electoral commission. “
With only a week until national elections in Uganda, a number of human rights advocates are concerned about increasingly violent rhetoric coming from the nation’s leaders. Ugandans were shocked last month when Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura was quoted by a local newspaper saying that if the opposition wanted war, they would give crime preventers — a youth force created to supplement the police — guns. Then, not long after, the secretary-general of the ruling NRM party, Kasule Lumumba, was heard on the radio telling citizens the state will “kill your children” should they protest election results. Although both Kayihura and Lumumba say they were misquoted, many feel the official response to these statements has been inadequate.
With exactly a week to the general election, a Court of Appeal judge has queried what he called a ‘broader’ test for the Supreme Court to annul any contested presidential election. Justice Remmy Kasule wondered why the Parliamentary Elections Act allows court to annul a parliamentary election on a lower test of ‘balance of probabilities’ yet the test of annulling a presidential election has to be to the ‘satisfaction’ of the court, meaning the standard of proof is higher. Alluding to the 2001 and 2006 presidential elections case, Justice Kasule quoted retired Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki and some other justices who held that the then aggrieved candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye, had not proved his case to the satisfaction of the court.
One week before Uganda’s February 18 presidential and parliamentary elections, main opposition candidate Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), says he fears voter bribery could be one of the obstacles to his victory. Besigye ran against President Museveni in three previous elections: 2001, 2006, and 2011. Earlier this week, Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), will once again deflate what he called the Besigye “bravado” on election day. Besigye said given the extremely high enthusiasm Ugandans have shown toward his campaign, perhaps Opondo was referring to the three previous elections that, he said, the government stole from him.
Authorities in Uganda have stepped up harassment and intimidation of independent journalists in the run-up to this month’s election as President Yoweri Museveni seeks to extend his 30-year rule, a press freedom campaigner said on Tuesday. Robert Ssempala, national coordinator for Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda, (HRNJ-U), told Reuters the government was applying special pressure on journalists in rural areas on which Museveni, 71, depends for much of his support. Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-serving rulers, is running against veteran opposition figure Kizza Besigye and former prime minister Amama Mbabazi on Feb. 18 in what analysts say could be his toughest challenge.