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After #MuseveniDecides 0

This past week Edward Ssebuwufu opened his Friday evening radio show his usual music, a Ugandan pop song simply titled “Africa.” The lyrics are a wry commentary on the politics of his native nation—“who can buy our country, we’ve put it up for sale” — and for Ssebuwufu they had once again proven to be prophetic.

It was February 19th, the day after Uganda held presidential elections, and despite allegations of corruption and fraud it appeared that Yoweri Museveni would be back for a fifth term in office.

Ssebuwufu was not actually in Uganda last week, nor were most of his listeners. The show was on Radio Uganda Boston, which broadcasts worldwide on the Internet from a studio in Waltham, Massachusetts—a historic mill city in the northeast United States that has become a major center for the Ugandan diaspora.

But while the audience is scattered, their attention and sentiments are not. Once Ssebuwufu took his place behind the broadcast desk and announced the latest election figures, he opened the phone lines — punching two buttons on the mixing board to bring the first guest on air. It was a man in Norway asking which polling centers were reporting Museveni’s purported victory. A second caller in Maryland wanted to know what could be done next to challenge the results. A third claimed that the government was just waiting for everyone to go to sleep so that they could swap the numbers in Museveni’s favor. According to Ssebuwufu — who had been at the station for seven hours already that day — this has been the general tone in the diaspora: frustration, and disappointment.

And not without good reason: the elections in Uganda this past week have been mired by irregularities. Radio stations were censored and social media blocked; opposition candidates were repeatedly arrested and protests quelled while state funds fed the incumbent’s campaign; and reports of vote-buying and pre-checked ballots led the US State Department to announce: “The Ugandan People deserve better.”

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by Ian Coss

Photo credits: Africasacountry

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