President Museveni was in combat mood and kept on his military camouflage jacket yesterday night as he addressed the country hours after being declared winner of the January 14 election.
The President had showed up to cast his ballot in the same military jacket on Thursday, which he had also appeared in during an address two days to the election.
Donning the military jacket during the first press conference after he was declared winner was significant, for it was a clear indication that there would be no niceties.
The President’s handlers say he puts on a white shirt for most business except when he is dealing with party business – on which occasion he puts on a yellow shirt – and on rare official functions he dons a business suit.
When the President steps out in military fatigues, they know it is not business as usual and he is not in a good mood.
When the President spoke last night, he had just been declared winner of the election for the sixth time, but he had garnered his lowest percentage (58. 64 per cent) since 1996.
His closest challenger, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi of the National Unity Party (NUP) party, polled 34.83 per cent, according to the results declared by the Electoral Commission.
Mr Kyagulanyi had on Friday, shortly after the Electoral Commission had released the first batch of the election results, disputed them, accusing Mr Museveni’s party of rigging the election through arresting his polling agents, creating a shadow around the transmission of results from the districts to the national tally centre, among other claims.
When Mr Museveni spoke last night, Mr Kyagulanyi was held by the army inside his home in Magere, Wakiso District, with no one allowed in or out.
A scheduled press conference with him yesterday collapsed because journalists could not access his home.
Mr Kyagulanyi’s claim that the election was rigged is most odd if placed side-by-side with Mr Museveni’s claim yesterday night that what Ugandans had just gone through could turn out to be the “most cheating-free” election in Uganda’s history.
Mr Museveni said one of Uganda’s chronic problems had been cheating in elections, which he said had been done through ballot-box stuffing, multiple voting, and other methods. He said this had been significantly eliminated by the biometric machines that were used in the recent election.
He took a jibe at the old parties, saying the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) thrived on multiple voting in 1962, citing the example of his late friend and comrade Eriya Kategaya, who he said was under age in 1962 but voted eight times in favour of UPC.
He also castigated the Kabaka Yekka party which he accused of intimidating the Democratic Party (DP) in 1962.
All these accusations have been levelled against Mr Museveni and his party over the years, however, and many of them have been proved in court when his re-election was challenged in 2001, 2006, and 2016. Mr Museveni’s party has also been accused of using money to manipulate elections.
But, speaking last night, Mr Museveni said one of his lifelong struggles has been to ensure cheating-free elections in Uganda and that he seems poised to succeed.
Mr Museveni lost in Buganda for the first time – at the hands of Mr Kyagulanyi – but he compensated for the loss by winning bigger than usual tallies in many parts of the northern Uganda and some other areas.
Mr Museveni labelled his opponent, Mr Kyagulanyi as sectarian, citing the voting pattern in Buganda region.
“I have been following what was going on. I know who was giving money to who, and so on. They were talking about a new Uganda when they want to bring back the old Uganda. Why talk about sectarianism?” he said.
Mr Kyagulanyi is an ethnic Muganda.
He was business-like in his address, immediately dipping into what he says he will concentrate on in this term.
He vowed to pursue what he called the “mass line” and fight against the “elite line”, accusing the elite of capturing benefits that should accrue to the masses.
In this regard, he said he will ensure access to free education, free medical care in public hospitals and work towards universal monetisation of the economy.
To show that monetisation of the economy is possible, he played videos of some progressive farmers in his village to whom he said he first preached the need for monetisation in the late 1960s. Mr Museveni also vowed to stop evictions from land.