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Uganda Decides: Here Is Why Today’s Election Is Set To Be Brutal

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When President Museveni came to power in 1986, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine was just about to turn four.

Central Uganda had been the battleground of the guerilla war waged by Museveni’s rebel National Resistance Army, and its political wing, the National Resistance Movement (NRM). In fact, Bobi Wine’s grandfather, Yozefu Walakira, was part of a different rebel contingent but from time to time during the conflict hosted Mr. Museveni in his house.

Walakira died during the civil war after being injured when his home was bombed – an attack that also killed three family members.

Today, Uganda votes in an election whose run-ups have been marred by shocking levels of violence with over a hundred people killed. Even more disturbing, in an already highly militarized state, is how the military has been displaying their might to the civilians in the last couple of days.

This week, social media was inundated with videos and photos of large armored vehicle convoys putting on a show of force in perceived opposition strongholds in the capital Kampala and long columns of troops in menacing battle dress prowling various parts of the city.

 

The youthful musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine and his honchos have been subjected to physical attacks by the state that are usually just metted on a formidable foreign enemy.

Since independence in 1962, Uganda has neither had a free and fair election nor a democratic transition to a leader either in the ruling party or opposition through popular vote. All its elections have been marked by violence and outright vote-rigging.

Insiders and outsiders all agree that the role of the military in influencing the dynamics of electoral politics in Uganda is as old as the colonial days.

The military dictator Idi Amin, who seized power for himself in 1971 through a coupe honed his brazen butcher tactics while serving in the colonial King’s African Rifles (KAR). Horrifying tales have been told of Amin’s role in the British campaign against the Somali Shifta rebels in 1949 and Kenya’s Mau Mau freedom fighters.

Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) is the army that is keeping President Salva Kiir in power in Juba. In that sense, Uganda has been in South Sudan for over 50 years. The Ugandan Military in conjunction with the Rwandan military was instrumental in the ouster of autocrat Mobutu Sese Seko in then-Zaire (now DRC) in 1997.

It is not clear what would happen if Mr. Museveni were to lose, and what the military would do.

The president announced a shake-up of the armed forces in November, bringing in the former head of Uganda’s operations in Somalia, Maj Gen Paul Lokech, as deputy inspector general of police to coordinate security forces around the capital during the election period.



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