Ugandan President Re-Elected in Vote Rejected by Opposition

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Photographer: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni secured a fourth term in office in a presidential election criticized by international observers and rejected by opposition parties who said it was marred by voter intimidation and fraud.

Museveni, a 66-year-old former guerrilla commander who came to power in 1986, was re-elected with the support of 68 percent of voters, Badru Kiggundu, chairman of Electoral Commission of Uganda, told reporters yesterday in Kampala, the capital. Kizza Besigye, Museveni’s main rival, got 26 percent. Besigye said he hasn’t ruled out calling for protests over the outcome of the Feb. 18 vote.

“The situation is not likely to turn into a popular uprising like Tunisia and Egypt,” E.J. Hogendoorn, Horn of Africa project director with International Crisis Group, said by phone from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. “Museveni is still very popular. There is a perception that he has certainly helped the economy and that he still has a fair amount of legitimacy among the people, certainly more than these other autocrats.”

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.

‘Rejects Outcome’

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. Besigye had warned he may organize demonstrators if it emerged the election was unfair. Talks are under way to determine what steps should be taken next, he told reporters yesterday in Kampala.

On the streets of the capital late yesterday, groups of people wearing yellow T-shirts, the color of Museveni’s party, paraded through the city center, beating drums and cheering, while other supporters gathered at roadside bars to celebrate. Security officers wearing military and police uniforms and carrying automatic weapons were on patrol across Kampala.

European Union observers said the vote was “marred by avoidable and logistical failures, which led to an unacceptable number of Ugandan citizens being disenfranchised.” 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 yesterday.

‘Lacks Credibility’

The African Union observer mission said there was an “urgent” need to improve electoral laws in Uganda before the next election. Citizens of the country believe the electoral commission “lacks credibility,” Gitobu Imanyara, the head of the mission, told reporters today in Kampala.

“The biggest fault in the electoral process was the conduct of the electoral commission,” he said.

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.

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.

Ethnic Violence

“Many people are fearful of rising up in case the violence turns ethnic, and goes the Kenyan way,” Sengoba said yesterday. “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.

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.

Cnooc, Total

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.

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