Uganda opposition leader Bobi Wine challenges election result in court


FILE PHOTO: Ugandan opposition leader and singer Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known as Bobi Wine addresses a news conference in Kampala, Uganda January 26, 2021. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine filed a supreme court challenge on Monday seeking cancellation of the results of a presidential election that handed victory to incumbent Yoweri Museveni, his party's lawyer said.

Museveni, a former guerrilla leader who has led the East African country since 1986, was declared winner of the Jan. 14 election with 59% of the vote, while Wine was given 35%.

"We want the poll cancelled and repeated," said George Musisi, lawyer for Wine's National Unity Platform (NUP).

Wine, 38, a pop star and lawmaker, rejected the results and said he believed his victory was stolen. Musisi said Wine was asking the court to overturn the results on several grounds including widespread use of violence.

"There was outright ballot-stuffing, there was intimidation of NUP agents and supporters, some were arrested on the eve of the election, there was pre-ticking of ballots," he said.

The filing showed the judiciary could be trusted to adjudicate over the dispute fairly, Museveni's National Resistance Movement party told Reuters, adding the petition did not have much chance of succeeding.

"Kyagulanyi is trying to give his supporters a soft landing but inside himself he knows he lost genuinely," said Rogers Mulindwa, NRM's spokesman.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, used his youthful energy and a widespread Ugandan love of music to build a large following among young people and present a formidable challenge to Museveni.

On the campaign trail, which Wine once described as a "war zone", he was forced to wear a bulletproof vest and a ballistics helmet for safety reasons.

To keep a lid on Wine's support, authorities responded with a violent crackdown. His rallies were routinely broken up with bullets, beatings, teargas and detentions.

Wine was himself on various occasions prevented from appearing on radio talk shows during campaigns and blocked from going to certain parts of the country to canvass for votes.

Uganda's judiciary has over the years drawn criticism from the political opposition and some human rights activists for alleged partisan rulings in high-profile political cases.

Challenges to the results of all the four previous elections won by Museveni have been dismissed by the supreme court.

In the rulings, most judges acknowledged the elections were marred by irregularities, but said those irregularities could not have affected the election's ultimate result in a substantial manner.

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by William Maclean/Mark Heinrich)

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