Ugandan pop star turned presidential candidate Bobi Wine is not Sankara or Lumumba, but he has risked his life to mount a fierce challenge to the 36-year dictatorship of President Yoweri Museveni.
“These elections were not credible, not transparent and will not be acceptable.”
Thirty-six year dictator Yoweri Museveni claims that he won Uganda’s January 14 presidential election, but pop star turned presidential candidate Bobi Wine claims that he won by a landslide and promises to challenge the results in court. Museveni has kept Bobi Wine and his wife under house arrest in their own home since election day.
The Black Alliance for Peace calls for support for Bobi Wine, as does Ugandan American Black Star News Editor and CUNY African Studies professor Milton Allimadi. I spoke to Allimadi.
Ann Garrison: Milton Allimadi, do you have any doubt that Bobi Wine is Uganda’s choice and that he would have won the presidency this week if it had been an honest election?
Milton Allimadi: I have no doubt that he's Uganda's choice. I have no doubt that he did win the election. But only the fraudulent results have been announced by the Election Commission, which is handpicked by General Yoweri Museveni.
AG: We saw huge crowds turning out for Bobi Wine, even as his guards and some of the media traveling with him were shot. Could you say anything about that?
MA: Of course. Absolutely. These are the folks, the young folks that he'd signed up. He had a national voter registration drive and he added millions of young new voters to the voting rolls. Who in the world believes that he's going to go out there and register all these millions of new voters and, at the end of the day, these young folks are going to end up voting for the 76-year-old dictator. It is illogical and ludicrous.
Everybody knows Bobi Wine won. Even General Museveni's Western supporters know Bobi Wine won, as you can see if you read carefully between the lines when the US State Department starts saying this was a fundamentally flawed election. Translation: These elections were not credible, not transparent and will not be acceptable.
AG: I think we should add here that three quarters of Uganda's population are under 35 years old, with very few prospects under Museveni, right?
MA: Absolutely. And Bobi Wine is 38 years old, so you have a situation where 80% of the population is under the age of 35. You also have an unemployment rate of 80%. Why would anyone vote for Museveni?
There was a story that appeared in the Uganda Daily Monitor, which of course is the leading independent newspaper in Uganda, on Friday. And it reported that the first results announced by the Election Commission giving General Museveni a lead gave him 4.7 million votes and then when the next batch of returns, the purported returns came in and each candidate got additional votes added to their total, General Museveni's totals went down by 129,000 votes, the clearest evidence that these numbers were being concocted and somebody made a mistake during the concoction process.
AG: What is the U-Vote app?
MA: The U-Vote app is an app that was developed by supporters of Bobi Wine, and it allows people to capture the images of the declaration forms at each one of those 34,000 plus polling stations around the country, and each of those declaration forms have the totals of what each candidate got in each of those precincts, and each of those forms are signed by the representatives of each of the candidates. It means that Bobi Wine's representatives have evidence of the true numbers from each of those police stations, and those numbers should have been transmitted to U-Vote as soon as possible, but Museveni shut the Internet. They've only been able to get very few of those declaration forms. Yet at the last count, I think they had tally sheets from only about 400 polling stations but had a consistent pattern. Bobi Wine was leading by wide margins in all of those stations that had been able to send their information nationally, including in all the regions where the Election Commission claims General Museveni won. And their aggregate was that Bobi Wine was leading by 74% to 16.2% with the other votes going to the other well known candidates. I believe Bobi Wine when he says this was an overwhelming victory, and just based on the demographics alone, it actually reflects the population of Uganda, the young population, so 74% wouldn’t shock me at all, since 80% of the population is youthful.
“Bobi Wine was leading by 74% to 16.2% with the other votes going to the other well known candidates.”
AG: What are the people who sign the tally sheets called?
MA: Each party has a polling agent, a representative observer. This role is often called “poll watcher” elsewhere. So Museveni would have his polling agent, Bobi Wine would have one for the National Unity platform, as would candidates of the Democratic Party, the Alliance for National Transformation, the Forum for Democratic Change, and the minor, little-known candidates as well.
AG: Did the polling agents put themselves in danger by signing these?
MA: Yes. And now we're getting reports that many of them have been killed already. Many have been kidnapped, and the Army is essentially searching for every polling agent that may have a copy of a declaration form.
AG: Oh my God.
MA: At the end of the day, I think Bobi Wine and the National Unity platform are going to be able to prove that they won this election, to use Bobi Wine’s own term, “massively.” And I think there are indicators that the countries that have been supporting Museveni’s dictatorship all these years will finally stop. I've also come to that determination. Now, if you read the United Kingdom calling for an investigation of the electoral process, this is something that's never happened in the past. They would accept whatever was declared to be the outcome of elections.
AG: Tibor Nagy, the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said that “the US response will depend on what Museveni does next.” He said that without specifying a preference. Would you call that unusual and significant in this case?
MA: It is significant, and I think we're going to hear even stronger language after Joe Biden is sworn in as the President of the United States. And what are the things that the US could do? First of all, it should be made clear that the soldiers that are surrounding Bobi Wine’s home must be withdrawn. Many of these soldiers, after all, are trained by the United States. They're armed by the United States. They're sustained by part of the $1 billion in American taxpayers’ money that the United States sends to the Ugandan regime annually. That's number one.
“Many of these soldiers are trained by the United States.”
Number two, as Bobi Wine himself has said, the United States should reconsider and halt military assistance to the Museveni regime because, as he put it, even though Ugandans understand that the US works with Uganda on national security issues such as trying to stabilize Somalia, Ugandans do not want the US to support Museveni's terror against the people of Uganda.
AG: On Ghetto TV, the channel created by Bobi Wine and his supporters to cover the election, I heard people saying that Bobi Wine supporters should try to be persuasive rather than confrontational with police and military, and that they should not throw rocks at them. Does this seem wise to you?
MA: Absolutely. I think that the police forces and the armed forces have had enough of General Museveni as well. In fact, there are reports that many of the soldiers that have been most brutal in enforcing Museveni's terror, particularly during this election season, are not even Ugandans, that some of them have been brought in from South Sudan. Some of them may be remnants of the M23 terror movement that Museveni used to finance in eastern Congo.
AG: Troops from Uganda and Burundi have been part of AMISOM, an African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which is in fact managed by the Pentagon. Horace Campbell, a professor at Syracuse University, was on Pacifica airwaves recently, and he said that the conflict in Somalia had been manufactured by the US, that the US has funded terrorists in Somalia, as in so many other countries, and that Ugandan soldiers have been proven to be selling them arms.
Bobi Wine has said in interviews, television interviews, that he will sustain the Ugandan troop support for AMISOM. I don't know whether Horace Campbell heard him say that, but either way, I'm sure he agrees with you that Bobi Wine should end the tyranny of Museveni.
However, some anti-imperialists are alarmed by this. Western anti-imperialists are alarmed by this support for a clearly imperial project, not only imperial but also profoundly dishonest, and by other soft power support that Bobi Wine has in the West. But I don't think there's any way Bobi Wine would have gotten this far if he had described the Somali conflict as Horace Campbell did.
MA: Absolutely not. But Bobi Wine, on the contrary, has said the problem with the Somalia intervention is that it's a purely Museveni project, and that in order to actually resolve the crisis in Somalia, to stabilize Somalia and create a peaceful Somalia, a more multi-state African force must be involved. It should not just be soldiers from Uganda and Burundi. You have to get other major African countries involved. For example, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal. If you have a multi-state African military force, the people of Somalia would be able to understand that this is indeed an authentic operation to help the people of Somalia. But right now, the Ugandan soldiers in large segments of Somalia are seen as an occupation force fulfilling US interests in Somalia.
And yes, it's absolutely true that Ugandan soldiers have been selling weapons to al-Shabaab, the same movement they're supposed to be fighting against. Now why would they do this? It’s obvious that Museveni really does not want this conflict to be resolved. The longer it’s prolonged, the longer Museveni has an opportunity to get financial and military assistance from the United States and the longer he can get the US to shut up when it comes to issues of human rights abuse in Uganda. Because Uganda can always play the Somalia blackmail card and threaten to withdraw Ugandan soldiers.
AG: The Ugandan and Burundian troops in Somalia are paid by the US and they make more than they would at home. Why would a more PanAfrican force, presumably paid by the U.S., be any less beholden to the U.S.?
MA: The mission would have a firm timeline so it really wouldn't matter who pays for it. By a date certain they would all leave Somalia, unlike the Ugandan scam where Museveni not only prolongs the conflict by selling weapons to al-Shabaab, but also threatens to withdraw anytime he's confronted about human rights abuses.
AG: OK, Milton Allimadi, is there anything else you'd like to say?
MA: I think that any American taxpayers listening to this should ask themselves, “Do I want to really be a part of financing the terror regime of General Yoweri Museveni?” And if the answer is no, you should call your elected representatives, your member of Congress and your Senators and tell them “not with my tax dollars.”
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace through her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes Region. Please help support her work on Patreon . She can be reached on Twitter @AnnGarrison and at ann(at)anngarrison(dot)com.
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