Museveni takes victory lap after winning Uganda’s presidential race

Rival Bobi Wine remains under house arrest and says election result is ‘daylight robbery’

As Uganda's presidential runner-up Bobi Wine waits for a court ruling on whether his continued house arrest is illegal, president Yoweri Museveni carried out a victory lap, driving back to the capital, Kampala, flanked by hundreds of supporters.

Mr Museveni was re-elected with 5.85 million votes compared to Mr Wine’s 3.47 million (the opposition has rejected the result, with Mr Wine calling it “daylight robbery”). Last Saturday, the same day the final tally was announced, Mr Wine’s home was surrounded by military and police, who have prevented him from leaving or anyone else from going in.

On Thursday morning, Mr Wine’s lawyers argued in the high court that his ongoing detention, without charge, is illegal. In response, the state’s representatives said they are not detaining him but instead offering him “protection”, while also suggesting there was a risk he would incite riots if allowed to leave, or encourage people to break Covid-19-related restrictions.

“They have not offered this man a right to be heard and therefore denied him the right to due process,” argued Mr Wine’s lawyer, Medard Ssegona. The judge’s decision will be announced on Monday.


‘Ghetto president’

Mr Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was a popular musician before he entered politics in 2017. He was known as the "ghetto president", and has huge support among young Ugandans and citizens from impoverished backgrounds. His campaign was marred by state violence, with dozens of his team arrested, injured and even killed during confrontations with police.

For many, his detention feels like a repeat of what happened to Kizza Besigye, the four-time Ugandan presidential challenger who spent at least 40 days under house arrest after the 2016 election. Mr Besigye was accused of being a threat to public order and later charged with treason.

On Thursday afternoon, Mr Museveni drove a victory lap 250km from Rwakitura, in western Uganda, to Kampala, making seven stops along the way. Ahead and behind him were boda boda motorbike drivers, wearing the yellow of the ruling National Resistance Movement party, as well as heavily armed military and police. Some wore T-shirts with Mr Museveni's campaign slogan, "securing your future", written on the back.


In parts of Kampala, traffic was stopped for an hour as roads closed to let his motorcade pass. Soldiers lined the streets. In the central City Square, he was greeted by brass players and dancers.

“We are welcoming our beloved president,” said Nanaganda Hawa, who was waiting for him. “We are jubilating, we are celebrating. We are happy, we are happy and we are more happy.” As a “senior citizen”, she said she had supported Mr Museveni since he seized control of the country in 1986.

The 76-year-old eventually got out of his car to speak to the crowd, suggesting that his supporters go home to adhere to Covid-19 restrictions, and saying he would address them on the radio.

Meanwhile, Uganda’s electoral commission said it had seen videos that appeared to show people stuffing ballot boxes and falsifying votes. It said the allegations were being “considered seriously” and would be investigated.

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa