Uganda’s Bobi Wine accuses president of staging vote ‘coup’

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FILE- in this Jan. 15, 2021 file photo, Uganda’s leading opposition challenger Bobi Wine walks back to his residence after giving a press conference outside Kampala, Uganda. Despite failing to dislodge the long-time leader President Yoweri Museveni, Wine has emerged from Jan. 14, 2021 disputed polls as the country’s most powerful opposition leader after his party won the most seats of any opposition group in the national assembly. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Ugandan presidential challenger Bobi Wine on Friday accused the country’s longtime president of staging a “coup” in last week’s election and urged people to protest his loss through nonviolent means. But he suggested he might not go to court to challenge the official results.

Calling the Jan. 14 polls “a mockery of democracy,” the opposition lawmaker and popular singer whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu made his first public address since polling day. Speaking while under house arrest, he asserted in an online briefing that Ugandans are being oppressed by ”a small group of gunmen” in charge of the East African country.

President Yoweri Museveni “committed a coup against the constitution and against the people of Uganda,” the opposition leader said from his home on the outskirts of the capital, Kampala.

Police say they have orders to restrict his movements to protect the public from possible rioting.

Museveni won the election with 58% of the vote while Wine had 34%, according to official results. Wine insists he won and has said he can prove that the military was stuffing ballot boxes, casting ballots for people and chasing voters away from polling stations.

“This has been the most fraudulent election in the history of Uganda,” he said.

But he suggested he was unlikely to challenge it in court because of concerns that a possible loss there would validate Museveni’s win. He said he would announce a decision “in a few days.”

He also said many of his supporters, including close associates, remain in jail.

Uganda’s election was marred by violence ahead of polling day as well as an internet shutdown that remained in force until Monday, when access was restored for most people. Social media sites remain restricted.

Museveni has dismissed allegations of vote-rigging, calling the election “the most cheating-free” since independence from Britain in 1962.

The East African country has never witnessed a peaceful transfer of power — one reason why even some within the ruling party publicly urge Museveni to preside over an orderly transition.

Wine has captured the imagination of many at home and abroad in his generational clash with Museveni. The 38-year-old has repeatedly called for the retirement of the 76-year-old president, a U.S. ally on regional security who took power in 1986.

Museveni accuses Wine of being a foreign agent, which the opposition leader denies.

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