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Ugandan Opposition Leader Says Country's Leader Is Capturing Dissenters


Yoweri Museveni has claimed a sixth term as president of Uganda after January's election. But opposition leader Bobi Wine, who ran against him, says that January's vote was rigged, and he now warns that Museveni is rounding up his enemies. Bobi Wine joins us now from Uganda. Mr. Wine, thanks so much for being with us.

BOBI WINE: Thank you for having me, Scott.

SIMON: You have released a list of over 200 people that you say have been abducted by Ugandan security forces. Who are they? Do you know where they are?

WINE: For the record, we have more than 3,000 of our supporters and leaders that are in jails, known and unknown. But in particular, more than 200 are missing. They've been abducted. We don't know where they are. After putting up a lot of pressure, they released one of our comrades. But what the military does is abduct people, hold them for weeks and sometimes months. But after putting so much pressure, they are presented after a very long time in the military pot and remanded to a prison or released on bail.

SIMON: Is there much you can help them with? What do you do?

WINE: So I petitioned the United Nations Human Rights Office here in Uganda because legally, that is where we can seek redress. We are peaceful people. We are people that believe in the rule of law. That is why we are making every effort to ensure that the human rights of our people are defended, to ensure that the right to life and the right to a fair hearing are respected with our people.

SIMON: The U.S. State Department has called January's election, quote, "fundamentally flawed." But as you know, the U.S. has supported Museveni as a partner in the war against terror. Do you want a change in U.S. policy? What do you want the United States to do now?

WINE: What we would request the United States to do is to hold Museveni accountable for the illegalities, for the criminalities, for the human rights abuses, for the disrespect of democracy, to put conditions to the cooperation. Otherwise, Museveni using the military to suppress the people of Uganda, to abuse rights, and yet the military is greatly supported by the United States, it looks ugly. It comes off as if the U.S. is sponsoring the oppression of the people of Uganda.

We know that General Museveni blackmails the West and blackmails America. And every time he's called out on his dictatorship and called out on human rights abuses, he threatens to withdraw from the fight against terrorism. We would love to continue working with the United States. As the people of Uganda, it's our responsibility to contribute to the peacefulness of the region. But it's similarly a responsibility of our development partners to support justice and to support the upholding of human rights.

SIMON: Mr. Wine, do you think you won that election in January?

WINE: I know I won the election. And that is why the Internet was completely switched off, so that General Museveni can be able to announce what he wants. Even before the counting of the votes, the electoral commission came out and announced General Museveni as a winner.

SIMON: Americans have just lived through a period where somebody charged a rigged election. Can you see where Americans are kind of a little suspicious?

WINE: I honestly hope that the people of Uganda had the freedom to even just raise their voice against a rigged election. In Uganda, it is almost policy that elections are rigged. However, this time around, it was the most rigged election - rigged from inception, a situation where the military and the police are unleashed by the incumbent to murder for fun. And indeed, over a hundred young men and women who were shot dead by the police and the military.

As the world knows, I was blocked from campaigning, blocked from using radio and TV stations. But still, we were able to outscore General Museveni until he had deposed everything and just declare himself.

SIMON: Mr. Wine, do you feel safe?

WINE: Well, I live every day as it comes. I live it as if it's a final day because I am followed everywhere. And every time I show up in our community, people get harassed. And because I'm being followed and there are rampant abductions and murders, I cannot claim to feel safe.

SIMON: Bobi Wine, a member of Uganda's parliament, thank you so much for speaking with us, sir.

WINE: Thank you, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.