One way to win an election

Uganda’s incumbent president, Yoweri “gay people are disgusting but we probably shouldn’t execute them because it would be bad for business” Museveni, is currently awaiting election results that will determine whether or not he’ll be allowed to serve a whopping fifth five-year term in office (SPOILER ALERT: he will). I think he’s really hit on a bold new electoral strategy in the process. Oh sure, Uganda’s election has seen charges of vote rigging, police gassing voters who are angry about long lines at polling places, a nationwide social media blackout–pretty standard free election-type stuff. But here’s the real innovation in my view:

Police in Uganda say they have arrested the main opposition presidential candidate to prevent him from announcing his own election results.

Kizza Besigye was detained during a raid on his party’s headquarters in the capital, Kampala, following Thursday’s tightly contested elections.

Police also fired tear gas to disperse his supporters.

Preemptively arrest your opponent on election day! Genius! And this is actually the third time this week that Besigye has been arrested!

Partial results have Museveni outpacing Besigye about 2-1, 62% to 33%, and I mean, you weren’t expecting him to lose, were you? But snatching Besigye on election day (I think he’s since been released but I’m not entirely sure of that) maybe allows you to fend off the uncomfortable possibility that he might release the actual his own vote count, which could be embarrassing for Museveni if, for some reason that I’m sure would be purely an accident, the two counts differ.

Anyway, congratulations to once and future President Museveni on rigging winning another election!

London, 11th July 2012. London Summit on Family Planning
He must be so proud (Wikimedia | Russell Watkins)

By the by, not unlike Burkina Faso, Uganda offers a demonstration of the downside to US counter-terrorism aid and training:

The U.S. military has trained more troops from Uganda in the last 10 years than from any other nation in sub-Saharan Africa except Burundi. The Ugandan military has also received hundreds of millions of dollars worth of hardware from the United States. Its soldiers now have sophisticated communications equipment, night-vision goggles, and small surveillance drones — all from U.S. companies. Ugandan troops deployed to Somalia travel in mine-resistant vehicles that once ferried American soldiers around Afghanistan, while Ugandan choppers engaged in anti-Kony operations are powered by fuel paid for by the United States.

Almost no one expects Museveni to lose at the ballot box, but there are reasons to worry that elements within the military could interfere to ensure he comes out on top — or to suppress opposition protests after the fact. While U.S. military assistance has boosted Ugandan peacekeeping and counterterrorism capabilities, it has also become a major source of patronage for Museveni, who has made sure the money flows toward supporters and family members. Experts say that this has undermined the military’s professionalism, resulting in bloated units and a lack of respect for the chain-of-command.

Ugandan forces have helped advance US interests, especially in Somalia, but they’re the ones enabling Museveni’s dictatorship at the expense of the Ugandan people and of Uganda’s future development, and they’re doing it in part thanks to the training and equipment they’ve gotten from America.

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2 thoughts on “One way to win an election

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