On the one hand, a dictator in power for 35 years and aiming for a sixth consecutive term. On the other, a famous reggae singer who personifies the wishes of a young generation of Ugandans who have never lived under other political leaders.
The presidential dispute in Uganda pits current incumbent Yoweri Museveni, 76, and challenger Bobi Wine, 38. The two represent different political projects and disputed, Thursday 14, the votes of nearly 18 million voters registered in the country where about 75% of the population is under 30 years old.
For Museveni, only his government can guarantee stability and progress, while Wine would be any newcomer backed by foreign and gay governments – the dictator has already made several homophobic statements and, in Uganda, it is still a crime of being LGBT.
In turn, Bobi Wine – the artistic name of Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu – regards his opponent as a failed dictator who cannot find effective solutions to unemployment, corruption and rising public debts.
Voting lines at polling stations were multiplying in Kampala, the capital of Uganda and one of the strongholds of opposition to Museveni’s government. But the presence of police, soldiers and other agents of the country’s security forces made it clear that the climate for the election was not a “party of democracy.”
The election campaign was particularly violent and was marked by dozens of deaths, arrests and repressions during government rallies under the pretext of non-compliance with isolation rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In November alone, at least 54 people were killed by police in protests against one of the many occasions Wine has been detained by authorities.
The opponent had his campaign events banned on the grounds that they could be points of contamination with Covid-19, while Museveni enjoyed wide visibility in the media, thanks to his position of power.
“If you try to disrupt the peace you will have to blame yourself. The security forces, by law, are ready to deal with any troublemaker,” Museveni said, wearing a camouflaged military jacket, on a TV show this week. .
When Wine’s car arrived at his polling station, surrounded by security guards in black uniforms, bulletproof vests and helmets, his supporters danced and cheered, but were later kicked out by police.
“I continue to encourage Ugandans to vote,” Wine said Thursday after casting his ballot at one of the polling stations in Magere, north of Kampala. “We have done everything possible to observe and monitor this election and we will know the answer.”
Voting was officially closed at 4 p.m. local time (10 a.m. in Brasilia), but voters in the queues were allowed to vote after the deadline. In at least two places in the capital, groups of up to 100 people were waiting to vote after the closure. The result is expected to be released until next Saturday.
Even after the vote was over, hundreds of Wine supporters in the capital returned to their polling stations to respond to the opponent’s call to “protect the vote” by observing the tally, which is being done publicly.
With every vote counted in favor of Wine, the crowd sang and clapped. When the vote was for the dictator, silence reigned.
On social networks, it is also the silence that has prevailed since the Museveni government first banned platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, then a wider blocking of telecommunications companies which generated a “blackout On the country’s Internet.
The acts, according to Museveni himself, were a response to Facebook’s Monday 11 blockade of a network of accounts linked to the Ugandan Ministry of Information. According to the platform, the profiles were fake and attempted to manipulate public debate and influence voting intentions.
Museveni even apologized for the inconvenience caused by the blockade, but said he had no choice after Mark Zuckerberg’s company suspended several accounts supporting his party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM). .
“If you want to pick a team against the NRM, then this group [Facebook] he must not operate in Uganda, “said the dictator.” We cannot tolerate this arrogance of someone who comes to decide for us who is good and who is bad. “
The authoritarian action is not helping to increase the popularity of the longtime Ugandan leader among young people. “I am tired of Museveni because he has no new ideas,” Joseph Kinobe told Reuters news agency. The 40-year-old mason, who was 5 when the current ruler took office, lined up to vote for Wine on Thursday.
“For years the leaders of this country have said they will ‘secure my future’, but they have not done so,” said Joseph Nsuduga, 30, in reference to Museveni’s campaign slogan. “Now I want a change for my children.”
But there are also those who support the dictator, and according to analysts he is the favorite in this election. “Museveni is my candidate,” said businesswoman Ceria Makumbi, 52, shortly after casting her ballot at the polls. “Because it gave stability to the country and promoted primary education, free universities, the construction of hospitals and roads.”
Museveni’s supporters echo his speech, that Wine’s final victory would be something like a swap of the right for the dubious. “We don’t want to bet our chips on this young man,” said Muhamad Barugahare, 31, when he said he would vote for Museveni because he is the only one who can guarantee peace in Uganda.
According to a campaign spokesperson for the Ugandan leader, “the president is sure he will win, but he will accept the election results because they were free and fair.”
In his Twitter profile, Wine accused in advance the bias of the Election Commission, the body that certifies the election in the country. “A plot is in place, the Internet is completely blocked and the media is censored. However, the Ugandan people stand firm and nothing will stop them from bringing an end to this oppressive regime.”