US ambassador blocked from seeing opposition leader, who is under house arrest since voting in disputed poll
Graffiti calling for the release of Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, on a street in Kampala. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)
Uganda has accused the US of trying to subvert last week’s presidential elections after the US ambassador attempted to visit an opposition leader being held under house arrest.
The military surrounded the home of pop star-turned-legislator Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, shortly after he cast his ballot in Thursday’s presidential elections.
The incumbent, Yoweri Museveni, 76, who has been in power since 1986, was declared the winner of the poll with 59% of the vote against Wine’s 35%.
The sharp, public rebuke to the US from the Ugandan government is relatively unusual as the two nations are allies.
The US supports Ugandan soldiers serving in an African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia and has donated about $1.5bn to Uganda’s health sector in the past three years.
The US ambassador, Natalie E Brown, was stopped from visiting Wine at his home in a suburb in the northern outskirts of the capital, Kampala, the embassy said in a statement late on Monday.
The mission said Brown wanted to check on his “health and safety”. Wine became famous after years of singing about government corruption and nepotism, charges denied by the administration. Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said Brown had no business visiting Wine.
“What she has been trying to do blatantly is to meddle in Uganda’s internal politics, particularly elections, to subvert our elections and the will of the people,” he said. “She shouldn’t do anything outside the diplomatic norms.”
Brown had a track record of causing trouble in countries where she has worked in the past, Opondo claimed, adding that the government was watching her.
There was no immediate comment from Brown or the embassy. The embassy has said last week’s vote was tainted by harassment of opposition candidates, suppression of the media and rights advocates and a nationwide internet shutdown.
“These unlawful actions and the effective house arrest of a presidential candidate continue a worrying trend on the course of Uganda’s democracy,” it said.
The US and EU did not send observer missions for the polls because Ugandan authorities denied accreditation and had failed to implement recommendations by past missions.
During the campaign, security forces routinely broke up Wine’s rallies with teargas, bullets, beatings and detentions. They said the gatherings were violating laws meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In November, 54 people were killed as security forces quelled a protest that erupted after Wine was detained for alleged violation of the anti-coronavirus measures.
Wine and his National Unity Platform (NUP) have rejected the election results and said they were planning a court challenge.
On Monday, security forces cordoned off the party’s offices in the capital. The move was aimed at complicating the NUP’s efforts to collect evidence of poll irregularities.
This article was published by The Guardian.