Uganda’s Museveni hints at postponing 2021 election because of COVID-19

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. /State House Uganda.

Uganda’s long-serving President Yoweri Museveni has said it would be wrong to hold a presidential election due early next year if the coronavirus persists, signaling for the first time a possible postponement.

“To have elections when the virus is still there… It will be madness,” the 75-year-old Museveni said in an interview with the local NBS Television aired late on Monday.

Uganda has recorded a relatively low caseload of the COVID-19 disease – 121 infections and no deaths – and began easing a strict national lockdown a few days ago.

Though no date had been fixed for the 2021 election, it is typically held in February.

Jotham Taremwa, the spokesperson for the Electoral Commission, admitted that the pandemic may affect the electoral process but said it is early to make any decision at this stage.

“For now, its life let’s first rally behind the president and government in fighting the spread of COVID-19. At an appropriate time, the commission will inform the country of the electoral programme,” he said.

In the NBS interview, President Museveni also lashed at his political opponents who accuse him of trying to make political capital out of coronavirus pandemic.

“Who could wish for this so that I speak and become popular?” he wondered…. “rubbish, idiots,” the head of state said.

In power since 1986, former rebel fighter Museveni has not confirmed whether he would run again, though the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party has already asked him to be their flagbearer and voters expect him to stand.

The strongest opposition aspirant is pop star and lawmaker Bobi Wine whose music endears him to the young.

Opposition leaders and rights groups accuse Museveni of cracking down on critics with intimidation, detentions, torture and tear-gassing of opposition rallies. The government denies that, saying arrests are to preserve the law.