Ugandan president decries "foreign meddlers" in final campaign rally before election |

Ugandan president decries "foreign meddlers" in final campaign rally before election

KAMPALA, Uganda – President Yoweri Museveni warned Ugandans on Tuesday not to be influenced by foreign meddlers, in a speech that closed an election campaign criticized by human rights groups for government harassment of the opposition.Opinion polls suggest Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for 20 years and changed the constitution so that he could run for a third term, could have difficulty capturing a majority in Thursday’s vote, Uganda’s first multiparty election in 26 years.Museveni went on to tell 12,000 supporters at his final rally that he would not let opposition members of parliament keep him from doing what he thinks best for Uganda. He said he would also reject attempts by foreigners to influence him.”Henceforth, we shall not listen to anybody when it comes to vital matters like defense, like energy, like roads, like politics,” Museveni said. “I am glad that my people here have seen the mistake of listening to foreign meddlers.”Museveni’s government has been under pressure from U.S. and European donors since he decided to increase spending on the military and pushed through the term limit change.The Ugandan government depends on foreign nations for nearly half of its budget. European nations suspended more than $25 million in support for the government last year over concerns about Uganda’s governance.”If the international community has lost confidence in us, it is a compliment and it means we are right,” Museveni told a meeting with foreign journalists on Saturday, touching on the same theme. “Because they are habitually wrong.”In his speech Tuesday, he also blamed the country’s ills – including power outages in the capital – on opposition members of parliament who blocked his legislation.”I was in a dilemma myself, the constitution had been written in such a way that the president had been held hostage to parliament, I therefore didn’t know whether to resign … or use the old discredited means of force,” Museveni said.”Recently we amended the constitution to make it impossible for parliament to paralyze the president,” he added.Museveni’s government has been criticized for its approach to democracy. Human Rights Watch has already suggested that the election cannot be considered free and fair because of government harassment of the opposition during the campaign.Prosecutors charged the main oppositions candidate, Kizza Besigye, with treason and rape in November. Government supporters have filed several unsuccessful legal challenges to his candidacy. When Besigye’s wife officially complained of government influence in her husband’s trials, she was charged with criminal libel.Museveni has been pushing hard in the last days of campaigning. Under Ugandan law, campaigning is banned the day before the election.The latest polls show Museveni with about 47 percent support. If he does not take more than 50 percent of the vote on Thursday, he will likely face Besigye in a run-off.There were few riot police at Museveni’s rally, which was carried live on state-run television, and his supporters were allowed to run through Kampala’s streets, a stark contrast to the opposition’s final rally on Monday.Besigye, who is the Forum for Democratic Change candidate, canceled his last campaign event after riot police fired tear gas at hundreds of his supporters and picketed the venue. State-run television did not cover that event.Vail, Colorado

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