In Depth

Uganda elections 2016: will vote end with violent reprisals?

President Yoweri Museveni warns protests against outcome will not be tolerated as country takes to the polls

On Thursday, 15 million Ugandans will vote on who they want leading their country. President Yoweri Museveni and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) have held power since taking control of the country in 1986.

In recent weeks, human rights watchdogs have voiced alarm at an increase in violent rhetoric, warning of severe consequences against anyone who protests against the result. Museveni has a history of controversy and has been accused of bribery, intimidation and violence.

Who is running?

There are seven candidates. As well as Museveni, Uganda's president for the last 30 years, hopefuls include long-time opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye and former prime minister Amama Mbabazi.

Who is President Museveni?

Museveni has led Uganda since 1986, after overthrowing Milton Obote in a military coup.

For his part, Obote had himself seized power – for the second time - in 1979, following the toppling of brutal dictator Idi Amin – the same man who had deposed him in 1971.

Although Museveni has been credited with restoring stability to a country rocked by successive conflicts and coups, he has also been criticised internationally for signing a bill that threatens life in prison for "aggravated homosexuality".

What is his track record with human rights?

Museveni rose to power in part because of his pro-human rights agenda. Backed by the West after the fall of Amin, he appeared to be a progressive influence, but yearly reports from the Ugandan Human Rights Commission show abuses continue to take place regularly and are, in fact, increasing. Dissidents still face torture and disappearances have been reported.

Is violence likely after the election?

Members of the ruling party have reportedly said post-election protests will be met with force. According to Human Rights Watch, government official Kasule Lumumba was recorded in late January telling audiences that "the state will kill your children" if demonstrations took place.

In recent years, security officials have killed protestors, including children, during public marches.

Since Uganda's independence from Britain in the 1960s, the country has not seen a single peaceful transition of power and many observers believe post-election demonstrations are likely, with protesters – and bystanders – at risk of state-sanctioned violence.

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