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Uganda’s Museveni Wins Vote; Opposition Rejects Result

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni won the East African country’s Feb. 18 election, extending his 25-year rule, as the opposition rejected the result and said any government he formed would be “illegitimate.”

Museveni, a 66-year-old former guerrilla commander who came to power in 1986, won a fourth term with the support of 68.38 percent of voters, Badru Kiggundu, chairman of Electoral Commission of Uganda, told reporters today in Kampala, the capital. His closest rival, Kizza Besigye, got 26.01 percent. About 59 percent of 14 million eligible voters cast a ballot.

The four-party coalition Inter-Party Cooperation led by Besigye “categorically rejects the outcome of the elections,” it said in a statement before the final results were announced. European Union observers said the vote was “marred by avoidable and logistical failures, which led to an unacceptable number of Ugandan citizens being disenfranchised.”

Museveni’s victory keeps him in control of an economy on the cusp of an oil boom. Tullow Oil Plc, the U.K.-based energy company, will probably start pumping crude and gas from the Lake Albert Basin in 2012. Uganda has an estimated 2.5 billion barrels of oil, with about 1 billion barrels already proven, according to Tullow. "

Besigye said he hasn’t ruled out calling for protests over the election result. Talks are planned to determine what steps should be taken next, he told reporters today in Kampala.

‘Illegitimate Government’

“We have resolved to consult other political actors, religious leaders, civil society and the public to determine how to bring an end to the illegitimate government that may be installed,” Besigye said. “We will keep the country informed.”

Commonwealth election monitors had “serious concerns” that there wasn’t a level playing field in the run-up to polling, mission leader Dame Billie Miller told reporters today in the city. Observers from the East African Community, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development said in a joint statement handed to reporters yesterday that the vote was “conducted in conformity with minimum international benchmarks for free elections.”

Nicholas Sengoba, a Kampala-based independent analyst, said Uganda’s opposition may be reluctant to incite violence because of concern that they may suffer the same fate as the alleged leaders of post-election clashes in neighboring Kenya in 2008 and face possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

Crimes Against Humanity

The Hague-based ICC is considering cases against six Kenyans, including Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, on allegations of crimes against humanity in the fighting that left 1,500 people dead. They all deny the charges.

“Many people are fearful of rising up in case the violence turns ethnic, and goes the Kenyan way,” Sengoba said. “If you entice people and then lose control, you could still be held responsible and that may end up at the ICC.”

Museveni, the leader of the ruling National Resistance Movement, has taken credit for delivering steady economic growth and bringing stability to a country once threatened by rebels including Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Expansion in East Africa’s third-biggest economy, after Kenya and Tanzania, is expected to accelerate to 6.1 percent this year from 5.8 percent in 2010, according to estimates from the International Monetary Fund.

Middle-Income Economy

Museveni expects oil production to help lift Uganda’s economy to middle-income status by 2016, almost doubling annual per capita gross domestic product to $800, while adding as many as half a million jobs every year.

Analysts including Yvette Babb of Standard Bank Group Ltd. in Johannesburg said the government’s policy of keeping oil contracts secret raised concern that the expected windfall revenue may be mismanaged. Uganda ranks 127th of out 178 nations on Transparency International’s graft perception’s index.

Tullow said last year that it plans to partner with China National Offshore Oil Corp. and Total SA once a tax dispute with the government is resolved. Uganda has five production-sharing contracts: one each with Dominion Petroleum Ltd. and Tower Resources Plc; and three with Tullow, Bill Page, a partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP’s Ugandan unit, said by e-mail on Feb. 11.

Museveni ranks as one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders along with Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and until earlier this month, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.

“When Museveni took power, Uganda was a failed state,” said Amama Mbabazi, secretary general of the NRM party and the country’s security minister, in an interview today in Kampala. “Museveni has a track record and he’s not only performed but gained the trust of people. People want that stability.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Sarah McGregor in Kampala at smcgregor5@bloomberg.net; Fred Ojambo in Kampala via the Nairobi newsroom at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.

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