Uganda re-elects its old leader

Click to follow
The Independent Online
President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda was yesterday sworn in at an open- air ceremony in the capital, Kampala, having swept to victory in the country's first-ever direct presidential elections. He won a convincing 74 per cent of the vote while his nearest rival, the veteran politician Paul Ssemogerere received less than 24 per cent.

Hugely popular in Uganda and widely respected in Africa, Mr Museveni never seemed in danger of losing the poll. The extent of his win, however, rattled his main opponent who started crying foul before the announcement of the final result. Mr Ssemogerere, who was even trounced in his home district, accused the government of rigging the election. Despite some isolated cases of intimidation early on in the campaign, observers have declared the poll to have been generally free and fair.

Mr Museveni's victory will be seen as an endorsement of his economic policies, which have given Uganda the highest growth rate of any African country, and of his ability to maintain peace and security during the past decade.

Having been torn apart by Idi Amin's reign of terror in the Seventies, Uganda was then submitted to another period of bloodshed under Milton Obote during the first half of the Eighties. It was Mr Museveni who toppled Obote after a five-year bush war and in 1986 set about rebuilding the country.

The poor showing of Mr Ssemogerere in the poll can be partly attributed to an unwise alliance between his Democratic Party and the Uganda People's Congress, the party of the exiled Dr Obote.

Nowhere was this more amply demonstrated than in the southern kingdom of Buganda which contains a quarter of the electorate. Mr Ssemogerere, himself a Buganda, might have been expected to fare well in the kingdom, especially as he promised to restore its federal status. But his links with the party of Obote worked against him in Buganda which suffered severely under the dictator.

Mr Museveni's refusal to introduce multi-party democracy is not seen as an issue among the majority of Ugandans. His "no-party" system of government is widely regarded as an effective means of combating the tribal divisions which trouble so many African countries.

Mr Museveni, whose election slogan was "No Change", has said he will now concentrate on consolidating the achievements of his National Resistance Movement. Parliamentary elections are to be held next month.