The standoff between the government of Uganda and the United States of America has escalated, after the regime in Kampala accused officials at the U.S embassy in Uganda of allegedly trying to subvert the recently concluded presidential elections, in a bid to help National Unity Platform (NUP) candidate Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine win the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni.
Insiders reveal that it is for that reason that the U.S ambassador to Uganda H.E Natalie E. Brown was blocked from visiting Bobi Wine at his home in Magere, Gayaza, Wakiso District, where he is currently under house arrest.
Bobi Wine was the main challenger to longtime leader Yoweri Museveni, who won with 58 percent of the votes.
However, despite the fact that Museveni won the polls, Bobi Wine had continued to be detained by the army and denied access to his lawyers, friends, colleagues or relatives, on top of being denied access to food.
The U.S mission said Brown wanted to check on the “health and safety” of Wine, who became famous after years of singing about government corruption and nepotism, charges the government denies.
The former pop star-turned-legislator, who came second with almost 35 percent votes, rejected the results and accused his rival, President Yoweri Museveni, of winning by fraud. Wine has so far provided no evidence to support his allegations, being under house arrest.
The Electoral Commission, however, on Saturday declared Museveni the winner with 58.6 percent of the vote. Museveni, 76, has been in power since 1986.
On Tuesday, Wine’s lawyers filed a petition in the high court challenging the legality of detaining him and his wife without charge. The court has not yet said when the petition will be heard, lawyer Benjamin Katana told Reuters news agency.
‘Meddling in Uganda’s internal politics’
However, 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.”
But the sharp, public rebuke to the US from the Ugandan government is relatively unusual as the two nations are allies.
Kristof Tetica, a professor of international development at the University of Antwerp, noted Museveni’s relations with the international community took a turn for the worse since November, when the president blamed anti-government demonstrations on “foreign groups and homosexuals”.
He added that donor support from the international community has been crucial to Museveni’s government since the mid-1980s.
“Particularly, the US has been a key ally of Uganda. On average they support Uganda with $970m a year, they’ve given military support. The country is seen as a key source of stability in the region, and that has given Uganda leeway for transgressions like corruption,” Tetica said.
“So that’s why it’s so surprising relations have become so hostile.”
There was no immediate comment from Brown or the US embassy by press time.
Opondo said, without providing any evidence, that Brown had a track record of causing trouble in countries where she has worked in the past. The government was watching her, he added.
However, the US embassy said last week’s vote was tainted by harassment of opposition candidates, suppression of 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 in the statement on Monday.
Bobi Wine on Monday appealed to “fellow citizens of the world” to help him as he remained effectively under house arrest since Thursday.
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 and the European Union did not deploy observer missions for the polls because Ugandan authorities denied accreditation and failed to implement recommendations by past missions.
During the campaigning, security forces routinely broke up Wine’s rallies with tear gas, bullets, beatings and detentions.
They cited violations of laws meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus for those actions.
In November, 54 people were killed as security forces tried to quell riots that erupted in several cities after Wine was detained for alleged violation of the anti-coronavirus measures. He was arrested multiple times during the campaigning.
Bobi Wine and his National Unity Platform (NUP) have rejected the results and said they were planning to challenge it legally.
On Monday, security forces cordoned off the party’s offices in the capital and have since remained stationed there claiming they are trying to avert demonstrations that are being organized by Bobi Wine supporters.