Three of Uganda’s major opposition parties met Tuesday morning to express discontent after a tense electoral campaign period marred by civilian deaths, teargas, bullets, abductions and incarcerations of over 200 political actors ahead of crucial January 14 election.
The press conference was attended by three of ten presidential candidates lined to stop incumbent president Yoweri Museveni from extending his rule to the fourth decade.
Addressing the press shortly after a closed door session, “We come together as opposition in a joint effort to ensure that our people come out to vote. We are united in a joint struggle,” Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate Patrick Oboi Amuriat remarked.
National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine roared dissatisfaction at the country’s electoral body.
“The Electoral Commission (EC) has been conspicuously silent. The only time it comes out is when it seeks to suppress the victims,” Said Bobi Wine who resorted to campaigning in a flak jacket- days after nomination to run for presidency.
“General Museveni prides in violence but we are proudly non-violent. This vote is going to be a protest and revolutionary vote,” he added, also alleging that his driver was gunned down Monday night by the military.
Since Monday, security personnel were spotted patrolling several parts of the country, a move opposition figures say is deliberately intended to intimidate voters.
“There’s heavy unconstitutional military deployment across the country. It will be counterproductive for anybody including Museveni to think he will use the army against unarmed civilians. Stand up against any kind of intimidation,” Mr Amuriat said before Bobi Wine emerged routeing for mass vigilance.
“Do not be discouraged by efforts of the military. Put on face masks and maintain social distance. This election shapes Uganda’s destiny,” Bobi Wine said.
Bobi Wine also spoke strongly to police and security forces who have repeatedly been matched with grim milestones in race to election.
“Majority of you are young people with a long future ahead of you. You are being used to abuse people’s rights but you will individually be answerable for violating people’s rights.”
Higher voter turnout- ‘advantage opposition’
Four time presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye said waning support for the regime has led to ‘scaled up’ repression of dissent.
“The terror that has been extended to candidates is totally unprecedented. There are some moments I have not experienced before. The terror and violence increases the more Museveni’s regime support reduces,” he said.
“Most people worry about why opposition cannot front one candidate. Mr Museveni must win over 50 per cent of the vote plus one,” Dr Besigye explained.
“We’ve not had a peaceful change for the last 58 years. We have an incumbent trying everything to cling unto power. The higher the voter turnout, the higher the possibility of having peaceful change through an electoral process,” Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) presidential candidate Mugisha Muntu said.
‘What Opposition Want’
Joining the three presidential candidates craving electoral commission’s legitimacy in conducting polls, Dr Besigye said they are committed to blocking Mr Museveni’s plan to unconstitutionally extend his rule to the fourth decade.
Opposition figures, already citing irregularities less than 48 hours to election, are now pushing for a meeting with the Justice Simon Byabakama led Electoral Commission.
“I am concerned about the absence of serial numbers on ballot papers going to certain polling centers. We are awake to the fact that rigging has been executed using such gaps created by EC. Serial numbers should be issued immediately,” Amuriat asked.
Opposition parties are now rallying Ugandans to defy pronouncements of the electoral commission directing the electorate to stay away from polling centers after voting saying it’s their singular line of defense against electoral malpractice.
“Do yourself a favor [Mwebereremu]. Stay around and guard your vote. Use that phone to record moments of results declaration,” Bobi Wine said.
Opposition figures also demand that EC rectify anomalies arising two days shy of election that has Bobi Wine perceived to be Museveni's closest challenger.
‘Over 45 Million lives at stake’
From the soils of a continent quite familiar with consequences of electoral violence but championed by swift security force operations and virtual resistance from opposition, the opposition figures echoed warnings.
“You know what bad elections have done in this country and beyond. The people of Uganda will not accept any illegality. We are over 45 million people. There is panic within EC and the regime but we hope sense can sink into those intending to cling onto power,” Gen Muntu said.
Opposition factions believe EC’s failure in striking an electoral balance puts Uganda’s peaceful coexistence at stake.
“If they stand firm and bold, the law and country will stand with them. EC should think about the lives of Ugandans to preserve,” Gen Muntu added.
“I sound a serious warning to the EC which is constitutionally tasked to organize a free, fair and credible election; without which they are merely a useless organization,” Amuriat had remarked earlier.
Amuriat said Museveni is obligated to be considerate of the country’s population.
“I advise Mr Museveni to think about this nation more than his own selfishness. Ugandans have been pushed to the wall. If this election is not run well, the whole election will be a recipe for a chaotic Uganda.”