afrol News, 7 February - This month's general elections in Uganda, widely expected to be won by President Yoweri Museveni, are held in a rough climate, with the opposition crying fraud and the army getting engaged.
President Museveni is seeking yet another term in the Ugandan presidency, and on earlier occasions has shown that he is willing to use tough measures to have his will. Reports of voter intimidation, attacks on the opposition and electoral fraud are a regular feature during election time in Uganda.
Last week, Uganda's three main opposition candidates for the presidency - long-time opposition leader Kizza Besigye, Norbert Mao and Olara Otunu - publicly accused President Museveni of manipulating the Electoral Commission to rig the votes and training militias in every district to intimidate the electorate.
The statements, although not unheard of in Uganda, however were made jointly by the three candidates and addressed to the US Ambassador. They came at a time when the US government, following events in Egypt, is in need of reconsidering its support to friendly but authoritarian regimes. President Museveni is a major ally to the US.
The Ugandan President has reacted furiously to these undiplomatic statements, warning the opposition against "trading lies" about government. President Museveni added he was "in position to enforce discipline" if these "lies" would be repeated.
Also the Uganda army, known to be strongly loyal to President Museveni, has been brought into the conflict. Main opposition candidate Besigye had warned of army interference in the 18 February
Kizza Besigye on an electoral rally in Bubutu, Uganda
elections, indirectly accusing it of being an agent of intimidation for the Museveni regime.
The accusations, also coming in the climate of the suppression of the protests in Egypt, soon grew into a public fear. Finally, the Chief of Ugandan Defense Forces, General Aronda Nyakairima, today had to make a public statement saying the army in no manner would interfere with the elections.
The army would accept any results of the polls, he said. However, General Nyakairima warned that if there was any violence, the army would act swiftly.
The comment is seen as a direct answer to Mr Besigye's statements comparing the situation in Uganda with events in Tunisia and Egypt. The opposition candidate indicated that there could be public uproar and mass protests if the elections were stolen by President Museveni.
Mr Besigye, who is fronting a coalition of three opposition parties, has made sure to propagate the great masses coming out to salute him on his electoral campaign around Uganda, presenting this as proof for his ample popularity. If the poll results do not reflect this believed popularity, a popular protest movement could emerge, he has indicated.
President Museveni has so far only frowned at the attempts to provoke a Tunisia-like situation in Uganda. Any attempts to create chaos or unrest would be addressed forcefully by the police and army, he announced.
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