CW 2/2021: The Calm before the Storm?
Press Review 9 January 2021 to 15 January 2021

Presidential Elections in Uganda

According to official figures,  after almost 30% of the ballots have been counted, Museveni, who has ruled the East African country for almost 35 years is with 63.9% of the votes well ahead of his challenger Bobi Wine (38) who has gained 28.4% of the votes so far. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu and who entered the race for the newly formed opposition alliance National Unity Platform, doubts these projections and accuses the government of electoral fraud and intimidation. Already on Wednesday night before the election, the government ordered the blocking of the internet and all social media and messenger services after Facebook suspended several accounts of members of the ruling party for spreading misinformation. Moreover, the absence of international election observation missions currently makes it difficult to assess the democratic proceedings of the election. In the run-up to the election, there were repeated violent clashes between opposition supporters and Ugandan security forces – but election day itself passed without major incidents, even though some polling stations were delayed in opening.  Military personnel were stationed throughout the capital. However, immediately after the polling stations closed, there were reportedly chases of election workers by the military and police in around 22 constituencies. The official results of the election are expected on Saturday; however, Bobi Wine has already announced that he would enact every non-violent and constitutional means to take action against possible electoral fraud. A total of 10 candidates and one female candidate had applied for the office of president. That the campaign came down to a neck-and-neck race between incumbent Museveni and challenger Bobi Wine was largely due to the decision of former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) frontrunner Kizza Besigye not to stand again. The 64-year-old opposition politician had previously contested four times against Museveni, last losing in 2016.


Border tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan escalate

An old border conflict between Ethiopia and Sudan is threatening to escalate: After Ethiopia accused Sudan on Tuesday of expanding its military presence in the border region of Al-Fashqa, Sudan accused its neighbour on Wednesday of being responsible for a border attack by Ethiopian militias that left five people dead. An Ethiopian military aircraft also allegedly entered Sudanese airspace without permission. The airspace around the region has since been closed to civilian air traffic. The border hinterland region known as Al-Fashqa, which belongs to Sudan but where Ethiopian farmers farm in large parts, has long been a source of conflict between the two states. The current escalation follows weeks of mutual accusations of escalating the conflict through violent attacks. Moreover, this week’s tensions were preceded by the renewed impasse of trilateral talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the Ethiopian Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project. Both Egypt and Ethiopia on Sunday accused Sudan of being to blame for the stalled talks. The deterioration in relations between Sudan and Ethiopia comes at a time when the politically fragile situation is already severely strained by Ethiopia’s internal conflict over the Tigray region. According to Chinese media reports, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir is being discussed as a mediator between the two neighbouring states.

In other news

The multiple award-winning novelist and filmmaker from Zimbabwe, Tsitsi Dangarembga, has received the PEN Freedom of Expression Award 2021. The 61-year-old has had an illustrious career. Her 1988 debut novel Nervous Conditions was the first book by a black woman from Zimbabwe to be published in English in the UK. In 1989, Dangarembga received the prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize for it. She later studied filmography in Berlin – and one of her documentaries was broadcast on German television. The PEN Award now honours both her work as a writer and her fight for freedom of expression in Zimbabwe. In July 2020, she was arrested by Zimbabwean police after her peaceful protest against the governance under Mnangagwa and was only released on bail later in the year. Dangarembga’s latest book, This Mournable Body, which got much international recognition was nominated for the 2020 Booker Prize.

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