Uganda opposition says HQ raided as it readies election petition

Party of main opposition challenger Bobi Wine says it is preparing legal challenge against President Yoweri Museveni’s declared win in January 14 polls.

Soldiers patrol near the house of Bobi Wine in Kampala [Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine has said troops “raided” the headquarters of his party, whose officials are preparing to launch a legal challenge to longtime President Yoweri Museveni’s declared victory in an election last week.

“Heavily armed military and police have once again raided our party offices in Kampala,” said a Twitter update under the account of Bobi Wine, who is effectively under house arrest.

“No one allowed to go in or come out. Museveni after committing the most vile election fraud in history, has resorted to the most despicable forms of intimidation.”

He told the Reuters news agency that party officials were on the run as they were being pursued.

Police spokesman Patrick Onyango said the National Unity Platform (NUP) offices had been cordoned off for security reasons, but he gave no more details and did not say if the troops had actually entered the building in the capital.

The electoral commission declared the incumbent Museveni re-elected on Saturday, securing a sixth term with 58.6 percent of the January 14 vote. Former pop star-turned-legislator Bobi Wine, who came second with almost 35 percent, rejected the results and accused his rival of winning by fraud.

Al Jazeera’s Catherine Wambua-Soi, reporting from Kampala, said the NUP was at the last stages of finishing its appeal against Museveni’s victory.

“Party officials told us that they will file the petition even if they do not trust that the Supreme Court judges will not give them a fair hearing,” she said.

Internet restored

The run-up to the vote was marred by the worst pre-election bloodshed in years, and a sustained crackdown on government critics and Museveni’s rivals. In two days of protests in November, at least 54 people died.

The government says opposition members and their supporters had been breaking public order laws and COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings.

An internet shutdown, which was imposed during the period for alleged national security reasons, was partially restored on Monday. However, social media reportedly remained inaccessible without a virtual private network connection.

Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, has been effectively under house arrest since he cast his vote and now is allegedly unable even to receive visitors.

“This afternoon, the US Ambassador to Uganda made an effort to visit me but was turned away from my gate by the soldiers who have held me and my wife captive for the past five days,” Bobi Wine said on Twitter late on Monday.

Earlier in the day, his lawyers were thwarted by security forces from going to go his home on Monday to discuss his house arrest and take instructions on the court petition against the results of the elections, according to NUP spokesman Joel Ssenyonyi.

The law gives petitioners 20 days after results are declared to challenge them in the Supreme Court.

Police spokesman Fred Enanga said security forces are “maintaining a security presence” around Bobi Wine’s home as a pre-emptive measure against possible rioting in the aftermath of the disputed polls.

Bobi Wine is allowed to leave his home under “escort” in order to prevent his followers from “instigating riots and violent demonstrations,” he said.

Police similarly surrounded the home of opposition candidate Kizza Besigye after presidential elections in 2016, preventing him from going out after the official results of his loss to Museveni had been declared.

Bobi Wine has said his campaign against Museveni is nonviolent and that his followers are unarmed.

The opposition party will seek a court order to end Bobi Wine’s apparent house arrest, according to Ssenyonyi. “His home is not a detention facility,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

Bobi Wine told reporters late on Sunday that some of his followers “have been abducted and are missing. The military is conducting a massive campaign to arrest our agents. Many are on the run.”

Politician Francis Zaake has been hospitalised after allegedly being assaulted by police who denied him access to Bobi Wine’s house on Saturday.

Ugandan police are holding at least 223 suspects over election-related offences, police said in a statement on Monday.

Bobi Wine appealed to the youth to vote out Museveni, a 76-year-old who has held power since 1986. His songs have frequently criticised Museveni for corruption and nepotism, charges he denies.

Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, has dismissed the allegations of fraud and said the election may turn out to be the “most cheating free” in Uganda’s history.

The United States and Britain on Saturday called for investigations into reports of fraud and other election issues.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies