Anti-Museveni Protest Gained Momentum In London
Anti-Museveni protesters- mainly Uganda expatriates living in the United Kingdom (UK), converged outside the Uganda High Commission Trafalgar Square in London to protest against what they termed the “February 18- fraudulent presidential elections” and the subsequent “violent repression of opposition leaders and civil society protests.”
On Wednesday, March 9, the protesters urged the European Union, the UK, the US and other Uganda's partners to push for a “recount of the poll under the supervision of international observers,” and for “sanctions against the Museveni regime if no redress is secured.”
They warned that “Museveni’s continued rule is likely to lead further crackdowns on civil society, including the opposition and the LGBTI community, among others.” During the the February 18 polls, Uganda government blocked the access to several sites of social media.
In a loud, vibrant demonstration, the protesters danced and waved placards to the sounds of African drums, vuvuzelas and popular Ugandan songs that call for change and democracy.
They carried placards proclaiming the election “Not free. Not fair,” “Recount now,” “Sanction Museveni regime,” “Britain. Don’t recognise Museveni presidency,” “UN. Speak out against Museveni’s crimes in Uganda,” and “Museveni! Stop supressing peaceful protests.”
Speakers after the other urged the UK government and international community to “not recognise Gen. Yoweri Museveni as the legitimate leader of Uganda.”
In Uganda, the protest has been praised by opposition politicians and has won widespread public support on social media.
The protest was supported by the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, the Uganda opposition movements the Forum for Democratic Change (UK) and the P10 (UK) coalition, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
Protest organiser, Edwin Sesange, Director of Out and Proud, said: “On 18 February, Ugandans held presidential elections. There is strong evidence that these elections were not free and fair, but manipulated to return to power the incumbent anti-democratic leader, Yoweri Museveni. The provisional results that were cited to declare Museveni as the winner do not match the results that were read out at many polling centres immediately after the election.
“These elections have been strongly criticised by the United Nations, European Union observers, the Commonwealth monitor team, Ugandan Church leaders, the United States and Botswana governments, local election observers and NGOs, as well as by Ugandan opposition candidates.
“We are very concerned that Museveni’s return to power will lead to further state repression against civil society, including the LGBTI community,” he said.
Prince Dickson Wasajja, of the Forum for Democratic Change (UK) and Chair of P10 (UK), outlined the key demands of the protest, which echoed similar demands being made by protesters inside Uganda:
“We call upon the UK Prime Minister and the international community to not recognise Museveni as the legitimate president of Uganda and to expedite a forensic independent audit of the election results by international experts – including an investigation into the conduct of the head of the Uganda electoral commission, Badru Kiggundu.
“We urge the immediate and unconditional release of the opposition leader, Dr Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change, and other political prisoners – plus the freezing of assets and the instigation of travel bans on key regime officials who are implicated in the fraudulent poll, including Yoweri Museveni, Kasule Lumumba, General Kale Kayihura, General Katumba Wamala and Felix Kaweesa among others.
“The elections were characterised by the jailing, torture, murder and disappearance of opposition supporters, widespread voter intimidation and harassment, delays in the delivery of voting material to opposition strongholds, manipulation of the poll results, lack of transparency and accountability by election officials, social media blockage, state surveillance and outright vote rigging.
“These tactics used by Museveni ,who has been in power since 1986, are similar to the tactics used by the rogue regimes that were first to congratulate him, such as President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jong-un of North Korea and Paul Kagame of Rwanda,” said Mr Wasajja.
Additionally, human rights activist, Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, joined the call, saying: “Museveni is the new Mugabe – a democrat turned tyrant who has clung on to power for 30 years using terror and fraud to sustain his misrule. Uganda is a member of the Commonwealth yet its government is systematically violating Commonwealth principles by rigging elections, shutting down social media, arresting opposition leaders and supporters, and beating peaceful protesters and journalists. We stand in solidarity with the people of Uganda who defend democracy, human rights and social justice,” he said.
Before and throughout the 2016 election campaign, live rounds, tear gas, water cannon, tanks and commandos were deployed against unarmed opposition supporters and sympathisers.
On polling day, Gen. Museveni's main challenger, Dr Besigye before he was arrested, he had involved in an altercation with police arrested after he busted and exposed a house in Naguru a suburb of Kampala, allegedly used by state agents which was as vote-rigging centre. The police later issued a statement that the alleged house was in fact their communication centre.
Many opposition polling agents, volunteers, supporters and leaders were rounded up by agents of the current regime and thrown into detention centres and torture chambers euphemistically known as ‘safe houses’. Others have disappeared. Some have been murdered by agents of the state or thrown into prisons, with no access to their families and legal representatives. A majority of Ugandans are now living in fear for their lives due to their political opinions.
Aidah Asaba, a Ugandan human rights activist, stated: “The regime of President Museveni has thwarted all efforts by Dr Besigye and his team to gather evidence in order to petition the Supreme Court with regard to illegality of the election results. Many opposition polling agents have been incarcerated on trumped up charges by the government.
"The former Prime Minister and former Presidential candidate, Mr Amama Mbabazi, petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify the presidency of Mr Museveni. However, the state machinery is being used to frustrate his efforts. The offices of the two lead counsels on Mr Amama's legal team have been broken into and computers, paper work and other evidence taken. A number of witnesses in this case have been arrested at the residence of Amama Mbabazi. The United States ambassador to Uganda has strongly opposed these actions but it seems Museveni is determined to continue his violation of human rights with total impunity. This can no longer be tolerated," she said.
The leading opposition candidate for president, Dr. Kizza Besigye, has been under house arrest but with no formal charges brought against him. He has been arrested many times during and after the elections, and been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment – including being pepper sprayed, abducted, beaten, starved, shoved and threatened with guns by state agents.
Since February18, after the polls, Besigye, a former personal doctor of Gen. Museveni has been denied access to his doctors and medical treatment. People who have tried to visit him at his residence in Kasangati have ended up in Museveni's jails and torture chambers operated by General Kale Kayihura, General Katumba Wamala, Felix Kawesa and others.
Journalists who have tried to report on the on-going reign of terror in Uganda have been pepper sprayed, arrested and physically assaulted.
Joan Natukunda of the Out and Proud Diamond Group added: “The majority of Ugandans are currently living in fear for their lives due to their political opinion or choice. They label Mr Museveni's rule a regime of terror. We strongly believe that the international community can do much more to pressure the Ugandan government to cease its repression of civil society. Inaction is collusion, with anti-democratic and fatal consequences.