Ugandan Presidential Election
Ugandans voted this past Thursday, Jan. 14, in a presidential election between current president Yoweri Museveni—an authoritarian leader who has held power since 1986, and opposition leader Bobi Wine. However, Wine and other opposition leaders allege that the election is being rigged.
Wednesday night, on the eve of the election, internet access was cut off for the entire country. The opposition party alleges that this was a move to prevent citizens from monitoring the outcome of the election. Museveni’s administration instead claims that internet blackouts prevent foreign bias from influencing the election process—following Facebook’s removal of several Uganda accounts with links to Museveni due to coordinated inauthentic behavior.
On Friday, Wine reported via Twitter that the Ugandan military had entered his home and “taken control”—saying “we are in serious trouble.” This came hours after Wine tweeted allegations that the election was rigged and encouraged his supporters to participate in peaceful protests.
However, a Ugandan military spokeswoman, Brigadier General Flavia Byekwaso has said that Wine’s reports are “not true.” Instead, she said there is a military presence in Magere, the village where Wine lives, and that Wine should “appreciate” the efforts being made to protect him.
These actions come amidst an already tumultuous election season. Wine was arrested several times during his campaign but was never charged. However, 49 of Wine’s supporters have been arrested and criminally charged. Additionally, 54 people were killed in November following riots over Wine’s arrest.
On Wednesday, the U.S. ambassador to Uganda announced that the embassy will not be observing the election due to a decision made by Ugandan election authorities to deny accreditation to majority of members on the observation team. More than 75% of accreditations requested had been denied. Election authorities had also denied the European Union’s offer to “deploy a small team of electoral experts” to observe election proceedings. However, observation missions have been deployed by the African Union and the East African bloc.
Historically, there hasn’t been a peaceful transfer of power in Uganda since 1962—when the country gained independence from Britain. Elections are often fraught with accusations of fraud and abuses of power by the ruling body.
Final Federal Execution Under Trump Administration
Dustin Higgs, the last federal inmate scheduled to be executed under Trump’s administration, was executed Jan. 16. This follows thirteen other executions of federal inmates after the Trump administration decided to begin federal executions in July 2020 after a seventeen-year hiatus.
Higgs, who was convicted for killing three women on a Maryland wildlife refuge in 1996, was not proven to have shot the women, and was instead an accomplice in the crime. William Haynes, the man who did fatally shoot the women, was spared the death sentence. Higgs’s lawyers argue that it is inappropriate for Higgs to be executed when Haynes was not.
Additionally, Higgs’s petition for clemency argued that he has been a model prisoner and an excellent father to his son, who was born shortly after his arrest. The petition also claimed that Higgs’s traumatic childhood was not “meaningfully presented to the jury at trial,” as Higgs’s mother died of cancer when he was ten years old.
Defense attorneys did win temporary stays of executions this past week for Higgs and another inmate, Corey Johnson, after arguing that their recent COVID-19 infections would put them at a higher risk of unnecessary suffering during lethal injection. However, this decision went on to be overruled by higher courts. Johnson was executed on Thursday night.
One of Higgs’s attorneys, Shawn Nolan, said the sudden influx in federal executions is politically motivated, as President-Elect Joe Biden has said he will seek an end to the death penalty. Higgs’s execution is scheduled to take place five days before Biden’s inauguration. However, the Trump administration insists that the justice department is simply upholding existing laws.