The Electoral Commission of Uganda announced on February 20 that incumbent President Yoweri Museveni won the recent election held on February 18. Among the list of longest-serving African leaders, Museveni has been in power for 30 years since he won a guerrilla war in 1986.

 

This year saw seven candidates vying for the presidency. Tensions came up to a peak during the campaign period, which was marred by violent incidents. Main opposition candidate Kizza Besigye who followed with 35.37 percent of votes was arrested several times during the campaign period. There were also clashes with police and opposition supporters from Besigye and Amama Mbabazi’s camps.

 

Ugandan citizens pushed back against threats of violence, some using social media to advocate for a peaceful election with the hashtag #IChoosePeaceUG. Offline, youth groups organized to encourage non-governmental organizations, the media, and the police to share a message of peace. Others worked to enlighten youth on conflict management, as it is young people who tend to be easily manipulated into acts of violence at the behest of wealthy patrons.

 

Despite Museveni’s long tenure, Uganda still lacks high quality public services. There have been frustrations in the country, particularly among youth in urban centers towards problems such as the high rates of underemployment, poverty, and corruption. Candidates vying for the presidency promised change — one of them being Maureen Waluube, the only woman among the eight, who promised to heal Uganda with love.

 

That Museveni emerged as President again despite proclamations and complaints of bad leadership and corruption suggests that there may have been invisible voters. This is especially evident due to the lack of public celebration following Museveni’s win as the streets of Kampala, Uganda’s capital, remained empty. Since the results were announced, popular candidate Besigye has been put under house arrest with internet and phone signal cut off. Ugandan netizens have come out to his defense on social media.

 

Were the Ugandan elections free and fair? What does Museveni’s win mean for the Ugandan people? Leave a comment below or reach me on Twitter @rafeeeeta