February 20, 2016 at 10:18 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Ugandan president declared winner of contested election

Uganda, Yoweri Museveni

The Uganda Election Commission on Feb. 20, 2016, declared Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has won re-election. (Photo courtesy of the State Department)

The Uganda Election Commission on Saturday declared that President Yoweri Museveni had won his country’s contested presidential election.

The election commission said that Museveni received more than 60 percent of the vote. Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change came in second with roughly 35 percent of the vote.

Ugandan police on Thursday briefly arrested Besigye after he voted. Reports indicate that the opposition leader remains under house arrest.

The Associated Press reported the election commission extended voting hours in portions of the country because polling places never opened. The Ugandan government also blocked access to Twitter and other social media networks.

The State Department on Friday said that Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Museveni.

“Secretary Kerry spoke over the phone today with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to underscore that Uganda’s progress depends on adherence to democratic principles in the ongoing election process and that the United States stands by the Ugandan people as they undertake this most essential democratic endeavor,” said the State Department.

U.S. cut aid after Anti-Homosexuality Act signed

Museveni has been Uganda’s president since 1986.

He signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposes a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts, in 2014.

The Obama administration later that year announced the U.S. had cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials responsible for anti-LGBT and other human rights abuses. The country’s Constitutional Court in August 2014 struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.

Uganda on Thursday also held parliamentary elections.

Sources with whom the Washington Blade has spoken in recent days indicate that some of the minor opposition candidates who challenged Museveni used anti-gay rhetoric ahead of the election. Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, a Ugandan LGBT rights advocate, on Friday said a local television station noted that a female MP attended a lesbian couple’s wedding last year in San Francisco.

“This is a local Uganda channel, but nothing much was said apart from that they expected her to lose because of that,” Nabagesera told the Blade. “But she was still leading her opponents.”

Nabagesera is among those who took to social media on Saturday to criticize Museveni’s re-election.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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