Yoweri Museveni was sworn in this morning for his fifth term as the President of Uganda. In preparation for the swearing in ceremony, which had 15 heads of states in attendance, most social media sites were blocked.
Museveni’s controversial victory at the February 18 polls was hardly a welcome development, particularly for the youth. This can be attributed to the fact that the president’s previous terms were reportedly characterised by corruption, unemployment and decaying public services. However, despite the seeming disapproval from the populace, he declared his intention to run for another term. To forestall any form of uprising, Museveni ordered the arrest of the main opposition leader, Kissa Besiye, several times during the period leading up to the elections. One of Museveni’s close allies till 2001 when he left the National Resistance Movement (NRM) on the basis of the party’s corruption, Besiye had been up against Museveni for the office of the president three times before and lost. The prediction that Besiye may be elected as the president was forestalled as he had only 35 percent of the total votes, while Museveni had 61 percent.
Freedom of expression in Uganda has declined gradually since the beginning of Museveni’s second term. However, it took a turn for the worse after social media sites were blocked during the voting and the swearing in periods. According to Reuters, the European Union monitors said the “election was held in an intimidating atmosphere and the electoral body lacked independence and transparency.”
The integrity of the election was further questioned due to the restriction placed on the traditional and social media. As a result of the clamp down, which was heavily criticised by several rights groups, government censorship was enforced on all that was published about the election. Therefore, all claims by the Ugandan officials regarding the fairness of the elections seem rather questionable.
As Museveni resumes a fresh five-year term, the repressive reign continues and Ugandans should expect an iron grip, particularly on the media.