Thur, 14th January - Polls open today across Uganda after a violent election campaign. In his effort to end the 34-year rule of President Yoweri Museveni, opposition candidate Bobi Wine has suffered a series of brutal attacks on both himself and his campaign staff. He is now unreachable, according to his lawyer, and an internet blackout is now in force.
Out of nine candidates in the running, all eyes are on the main challenger to Museveni’s presidency: the musician-cum-politician Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known by his stage name Bobi Wine.
Wine has managed to ruffle feathers in a campaign where he was jailed, tortured, and attacked. But that has not stopped him from spreading his message of anti-corruption and ultimately his online hashtag #WeAreRemovingADictator.
Speaking last week, he explained why no amount of intimidation would stop him from pushing forward with his youth-led campaign.
“No amount of arrest, torture or pepper-spraying will stop us. Why can’t President [Yoweri] Museveni realise that we are not going to give up.”
Bobi Wine’s US legal representative Bruce Afran says he has now ‘lost contact’ with his client, saying that Bobi Wine had been isolated from his entire campaign and security staff.
There are reports this morning that voting has been delayed because of a lack of voting materials at the major opposition stronghold of Masaka, 130km south west of the capital Kampala.
Ugandans ready for change?
While Wine has run a successful campaign against the 76-year old Museveni, who is twice his age, the real question is are Ugandans willing to take that risk at the polls?
Many see today’s elections as the true struggle that is consistently repeating itself across the continent as one pitting the youth against the ageing leaders who refuse to relinquish power.
With 34 years in power, Museveni is one of the longest-serving African leaders, alongside:
Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, 41 years
Cameroon’s Paul Biya, 38 years
Republic of Congo’s Denis Sassou Nguesso, 36 years
Chad’s Idriss Deby, 30 years
Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki, 27 years
Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh, 21 years
Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, 20 years
Free and fair elections?
On Wednesday, the Ugandan government ordered service providers across the country to halt internet access just hours before voting began.