UGANDA’S long-serving President Yoweri Museveni dismissed predictions that Egypt-inspired protests could erupt after elections on Friday and repeated threats to arrest the main opposition leader.
Museveni, who has been in power for 25 years, is facing a fierce contest from Kizza Besigye, who says there is likely to be street “chaos” if the poll is not fair.
Most analysts expect Museveni to win, though his share of the vote dwindled at each of the last three elections. The opposition alleged vote-rigging at each of the polls.
“There can be no Egyptian-like revolution here,” Museveni told a final news conference ahead of polling day. “Someone taking power by extra-constitutional means? That one is out of the question. It will not happen.”
Besigye, who is facing former ally Museveni for the third time, said last month that a popular uprising in Uganda was “even more likely” than in either Egypt or Tunisia after what he says are years of corruption.
He intends to release his own results tally from the 24 000 polling stations across the country and warns that, if they do not match the official figures, his supporters will protest.
Besigye (54) was Museveni’s doctor when he led a five-year bush war against Milton Obote.
“There is not the slightest worry in me because I am a dictator-buster,” Museveni said. “I am the biggest enemy of dictators so there is no way I can be worried.”
Besigye unsuccessfully appealed to the Supreme Court after the last two polls but this time says he will appeal to the public instead.
“If Besigye does not want to go to court that is good,” Museveni said. “But if he tries to cause chaos, we can’t allow that. We shall arrest him.”
Museveni also warned his security forces were ready to deal with violence.
“Very simple, just lock them up,” he said when asked how the government would deal with rioters. “In as humane a manner as possible, bundle them into jails. And that will be the end of the story. And to the courts.”
Museveni is respected for his shepherding of the economy, for stabilising a once chaotic country and for intervening in regional hotspots such as Somalia.
But support has fallen at home over the last decade and relations with the West have frayed over moves, including scrapping terms limits for presidents, that critics say signal the 67-year-old wants to be president-for-life.
Citing polls carried out by his ruling National Resistance Movement, Museveni said his rival’s challenge did not worry him.
“We know we will win with a big majority,” he said. “Certainly it will be a big win.”
Museveni said it was up to his party to decide whether he would stand again in 2016 should he win on Friday. He said there should be a transition of power eventually but not until he had finished developing the country.
“Those who say five years don’t count are useless. I was able to overthrow a government in five years,” he said.
“By the end of this five years Uganda will be a middle income country and I will not allow Besigye and that crowd to mess up that plan”. –– Reuters.