Ugandan opposition leader drops challenge to election loss

Uganda opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, looks on during a scuffle in which local and foreign journalists have been assaulted by Uganda Military Police outside the UN Human RIghts offices on February 17, 2021. Wine was delivering a petition the the UN offices for alleged human rights abuses on his supporters by Ugandan security forces during the 2021 Presidential campaign. (Photo by Badru KATUMBA / AFP)

Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine announced Monday he was abandoning a legal bid to overturn the results of last month’s presidential election, accusing the judiciary of favouring veteran ruler Yoweri Museveni.

The 76-year-old former rebel leader won a sixth term in office on January 14 with 58 percent of the vote. Wine, a 39-year-old singer-turned-lawmaker, came second with 35 percent and decried the election as a sham.

He filed a petition in the Supreme Court on February 1 challenging the result, alleging voter intimidation, the abduction of his party officials, and widespread rigging including ballot stuffing.

But Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, said he had instructed his lawyers to withdraw the petition, accusing the judges hearing the case of “bias” and a “lack of independence”.

“We are convinced that the Supreme Court has a predetermined mind,” he told reporters on Monday.

“We refuse to be part of that mockery of justice. The people of Uganda will have the final say on their destiny. Having withdrawn our case from the unjust Supreme Court of Uganda we are putting all legal, non-violent options on the table,” he added, without elaboration.

Last week Wine’s lawyers and judges spent days sparring over procedural issues concerning his petition, with the court ruling Friday that much of the evidence his team submitted could not be heard on a technicality.

Wine has accused the top judge hearing the case, Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo, of meeting Museveni on three occasions since the petition was filed, and questioned his independence.

Losing candidates have sought unsuccessfully in the past to overturn Museveni’s wins in court.

One of Africa’s longest-serving rulers, he has won every election since 1996, almost all marred by allegations of irregularities.

He declared the January ballot the cleanest in Uganda’s post-independence history.

But the road to his latest victory was marred by a particularly violent and sustained crackdown on his rivals that drew international condemnation.

In November, at least 54 people were shot dead by security forces loyal to Museveni during protests against one of Wine’s numerous arrests.

The opposition leader was held under effective house arrest from polling day until a court-ordered security forces end his detention nearly two weeks later.