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Uganda's opposition rejects Museveni's reelection as 'fraud'

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Soldiers patrol outside opposition challenger Bobi Wine's home in Magere, Kampala, Uganda, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, after President Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of the presidential election. Ugandas electoral commission says longtime President Yoweri Museveni has won a sixth term, while top opposition challenger Bobi Wine alleges rigging and officials struggle to explain how polling results were compiled amid an internet blackout. In a generational clash widely watched across the African continent, the young singer-turned-lawmaker Wine posed arguably the greatest challenge yet to Museveni. (AP Photo/Nicholas Bamulanzeki)

KAMPALA – A day after Uganda's longtime leader was declared winner of the country's presidential election, the opposition party dismissed the results as “fraud” and called for the release of their leader, Bobi Wine, who has been allegedly under house arrest since polling day.

President Yoweri Museveni won a sixth five-year term, extending his rule to four decades, according to official results.

Uganda's military on Sunday continued to hold top opposition challenger Wine at his home, saying troops were there to protect him. Wine dismissed Museveni's victory as “cooked-up, fraudulent results” while his party urged the government to release him.

Wine said Sunday that he has proof that he actually won the election.

“We were leading Gen. Museveni by a very large margin, so large that he could not recover,” said Wine, speaking on his cell phone to international journalists from his home.

“Our polling agents have proof of our victory," said Wine. "We have proof that the military carried out voting fraud but we cannot publish these videos because the internet is cut and because the military is chasing our polling agents.”

Wine said his party, the National Unity Platform, has video evidence of the military stuffing ballot boxes, casting ballots for people and chasing voters away from polling stations.

Wine tweeted Sunday that military units are not allowing him and his wife, Barbie, from leaving their house, not even to harvest food from their garden.

“It’s now four days since the military surrounded our home and placed my wife and I under house arrest,” said Wine's tweet. “We have run out of food supplies and when my wife tried to pick food from the garden yesterday, she was blocked and assaulted by the soldiers staged in our compound.”

Wine said that while he and his wife are being held captive at their property, they are concerned about the safety of his party's polling agents and other supporters.

“We are detained at our house, while others have been abducted and are missing. The military is conducting a massive campaign to arrest our agents. Many are on the run."

Wine said he and his supporters are pursuing a legal and peaceful challenge to Museveni.

“What we are doing is moral and right. We are doing this legally and non-violently. So many people are paying the price for standing up for what is moral and what is right for Uganda. Forty-five million Ugandans are yearning for peaceful change, to redefine our country and our democracy.”

Wine’s opposition party called on all Ugandans "to reject this fraud ... This is a revolution and not an event. A revolution of this nature cannot be stopped by a fraudulent election.”

The opposition party, in a statement Sunday, said that its “quest for a free Uganda is on despite the current attack on free speech and association,” referring to the days-long shutdown of the internet by the government. The party urged its followers to use every “constitutionally available avenue” to pursue political change.

“As we speak now, our president (Wine) is under illegal detention at his home,” opposition lawmaker Mathias Mpuuga, told reporters at a news conference Sunday. Mpuuga spoke at the headquarters of Wine’s party in Kampala.

“Perhaps his crime was to defeat Mr. Museveni on the day he has selected as his crowning,” he said. Wine “is not allowed to leave or receive visitors at his home,” he said.

Wine's party alleged that soldiers had actually broken into his compound and were freely using utilities including power and water.

“We are concerned about the state in which he is,” party spokesman Joel Ssenyonyi said of Wine. “Is his house now a barracks?”

He added: “There will be a Uganda after Museveni and there will be an army that serves the interests of the country.”

Uganda's electoral commission said that Museveni received 58% of the vote to Wine's 34%, with a voter turnout of 52%.

Although Museveni stays in power, at least nine of his Cabinet ministers, including the vice president, were defeated in the parliamentary elections, many losing to candidates from Wine’s party, local media reported.

In a generational clash watched across the African continent with a booming young population and a host of aging leaders, the 38-year-old singer-turned-lawmaker Wine posed arguably the greatest challenge yet to Museveni, 76, since he came to power in 1986.

Calling himself the “ghetto president,” Wine had strong support in Uganda's cities, urban where frustration with unemployment and corruption is high.

Museveni dismissed the claims of vote-rigging.

“I think this may turn out to be the most cheating-free election since 1962,” when Uganda won independence from Britain, said Museveni in a national address on Saturday.

The electoral commission deflected questions about how countrywide voting results were transmitted during the internet blackout by saying “we designed our own system.”

“We did not receive any orders from above during this election,” commission chair Simon Byabakama told reporters, adding his team was “neither intimidated nor threatened.”

Tracking the vote was further complicated by the arrests of independent monitors and the denial of accreditation to most members of the U.S. observer mission, leading the U.S. to cancel its monitoring of the vote.

“Uganda’s electoral process has been fundamentally flawed,” the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Tibor Nagy, tweeted, warning that “the U.S. response hinges on what the Ugandan government does now.”

The U.S. State Department urged “independent, credible, impartial, and thorough investigations” into reports of irregularities. It condemned “the continuing attacks on political candidates” and called for the immediate restoration of the internet and social media.

“We reiterate our intention to pursue action against those responsible for the undermining of democracy and human rights in Uganda,” it said.

Some members of Museveni's ruling party, the National Resistance Movement, were injured when security officials tried to stop them from boisterously celebrating the president's win.

Events in Uganda are also being followed by the man named by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to be his National Security Advisor.

“The news from Uganda is deeply concerning. Bobi Wine, other political figures, and their supporters should not be harmed, and those who perpetrate political violence must be held accountable,” tweeted Jake Sullivan on Sunday. “After this flawed election, the world is watching.”

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AP journalists Cara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya and Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg contributed.