Feb. 22, 2016 (GIN) – Retirement? Not for President Yoweri Museveni. The 71 year old leader, who already held office for three decades, once knocked African leaders who “overstay”. But whereas some leaders gather their memories and go, Museveni went to the mat for a fifth term as commander in chief.
But the fight was messy and he stands to squander his legacy earned by fighting AIDS, Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. He also sends a dispiriting message to the young that elections are won from a gun’s barrel.
Even before polls closed, police and security guards stormed through Kampala, armed to the teeth, picking on the opposition. Kizza Besigye – the leading opposition candidate – was arrested several times including this week for a host of non-violent charges.
Young people who had grown up under just one president were seen lining up at polling stations early Friday only to find out that ballot boxes and papers had not arrived, if they would at all, and their votes would not count.
The 13-nation Commonwealth Observer Group, headed by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, listed among their chief concerns “the increased prevalence of money in politics, the misuse of state resources – which led to significant advantages for the incumbent – and the competence, credibility and ability of the Electoral Commission to manage the process effectively and impartially.”
“The inexcusable delays of supply of material to polling stations, particularly in Kampala and its environs, and other deficiencies in the process… have seriously detracted from the fairness and credibility of the result of the elections,” they added.
Sophia Akuffo, Ghanaian Supreme Court justice and head of the African Union observer mission, concurred, calling the delays in ballot papers arriving at polling stations quite “inexcusable.”
But Akuffo also said she was impressed by Ugandan voters.
“I commend them for their patience and their fortitude and their determination to exercise their votes, because it was hot, humid, and very, very confusing at some of the polling stations that we went to and of course, the materials were late,” she said.
Meanwhile, over sixty Ugandan and international NGOs have signed an open letter calling on the Uganda government to stop its plans of licensing out the Ngaji oil block at the DR Congo border in order to preserve the pristine environment of the Virunga National Park.
Virunga National Park is Africa’s oldest national park with a wide diversity of animal life and exceptional biodiversity, including the nearly extinct mountain gorillas.
The NGOs include Global Witness and the Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas.
Last year, UNESCO’s Director for the World Heritage Center, Kishore Rao, wrote to the Head of Uganda’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO, reminding her that “the World Heritage Committee has adopted a clear position that oil exploration or exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status… Virunga national park is a world heritage property and also a Ramsar site, inscribed on the list of wetlands of international importance.”