Facing Possible U.S. Sanctions for Violent Rigged Election, Ugandan Regime Concocts Phantom Somalia Victory

Ugandan military dictator

Military dictator Gen. Museveni

On January 23, several media outlets blasted a headline about a spectacular Ugandan military air strike against Al-Shabab, the army regarded as Islamic terrorists by the U.S. in war-torn Somalia.

Voice of America declared “Ugandan Airstrikes in Somalia Kill 189 Al-Shabab Fighters,” while Al Jazeera was a little more cautious, reporting that “Ugandan army says it killed 189 al-Shabab fighters in Somalia.” The sub-headline on the Al Jazeera story stated, “Al-Qaeda-linked fighters killed after troops raided their hideouts in southern Somalia.”


The story—if true—would have been a great diversion for the Ugandan dictator Gen. Yoweri Museveni, a U.S. “ally” in the war against global “terror”—even though he himself operates a regime of terror in Uganda, as the world saw during the recent rigged presidential elections.


Even though the U.S. sponsors the Museveni regime with $1 billion per year in financing and weapons, the outgoing U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Tibor Nagy rejected the Jan. 14 Ugandan elections as “fundamentally flawed”. There is mounting pressure from many U.S. lawmakers that Washington take action against the Museveni regime.

During the election media reported attacks against opposition leaders, including the major challenger member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi, a.k.a. Bobi Wine. As many as 54 Ugandan opposition supporters were killed—that is a count acknowledged by the regime, and reports indicate that the total count was more than 100—in the weeks before the vote by state security forces. U.S. officials are now openly discussing punitive actions against the regime—Gen. Museveni has been in power for 35 years. Even journalists were attacked—beaten and fired at by security forces—and the police chief, Gen. Okoth Ochola, boasted that it was “for their own good.”

On Jan. 16, even though Gen. Museveni had cut off total access to the internet throughout the country on Jan. 12, two days before the vote, his hand-picked Election Commission led by Simon Byabakama, claimed he had beaten Bobi Wine by 59% to 35%.

Since no data could have been transmitted from 34,714 polling stations from allover the country, Bobi Wine dismissed the results as a “joke.” Indeed the Electoral Commission did not publish a breakdown showing the votes from each region based on tallying from the polling stations within 48 hours as required by the constitution.

Uvote, an independent App developed by opposition supporters, with a tallying center in Holland to avoid a raid by the Ugandan military, shows Bobi Wine leading Gen. Museveni by 72% to 25%.

The tally is based on a total of about 4,000 polling stations spread allover the country. Unlike the numbers reported by the Ugandan Election Commission, the Uvote totals are actually accompanied by declaration of return forms (DORs) with totals for each candidate from the polling stations. Bobi Wine, who is 38, recruited millions of new young voters who may have helped him carry the day. Eighty percent of Uganda’s population is under the age of 35. Museveni is believed to be in his 80s, although his official age is 76.

As the pressure mounts on Gen. Museveni, a diversion, such as the “remarkable” air strike in Somalia, would offer welcome relief. It would also remind Washington of how much it depends on Gen. Museveni in fighting Al-Shabab. The U.S. has given Museveni a blank check in Uganda, ignoring human rights abuses so long as he’s seen as a reliable military ally.

Well it turns out that the military strike in Somalia was a completely bogus story. There was no such strike even though, VOA quoted Uganda’s army deputy spokesman, Lt. Col. Deo Akiki, as saying the soldiers “killed at least 189 al-Shabab fighters in the operation and destroyed two mounted weapons and motorbikes in separate fire strikes.”

The story is still found on the websites of VOA, Al Jazeera, and other outlets.

Reuters, which had also published the concocted “story” later withdrew it after Rashid Abdi, a researcher, news analyst, and commentator on the Horn of Africa issues challenged the authenticity of the report. The Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) has thousands of soldiers deployed by Gen. Museveni in Somalia, as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Uganda has the largest force, with nearly 7,000 soldiers and the regime uses the deployment to milk resources from the U.S.

Hoping to sugarcoat some of the embarrassing damage, Adonia Ayebare, Uganda’s permanent representative to the United Nations tweeted: “Brother Rashid. I have talked to the UPDF leadership the claim is fake news and was not an official claim and we should treat it as such. Thank you for recognizing the high sacrifices by UPDF and Ugand to the cause of AMISOM.”

Maria Burnett, a human rights campaigner, and formerly of Human Rights Watch, responded to Ambassador Ayebare’s double speak with the following tweet: “It was an official claim. It was via an email to journalists directly from Lt Col Akiki. That’s why so many covered it.”

She later tweeted, “To be clear, Akiki sent email to media explaining in detail UPDF attack with photos & stating those figures. then when queried, UPDF tells MFA the story was not true & blames media for ‘fake news’. Now UPDF says the story is unverified and unsourced. But UPDF was THE source.”

Rashid’s expose of the Museveni regime’s big lie of course raises many questions about past claims of spectacular battlefront “victories” in Somalia.

Watch out for more schemes to divert focus from the rigged presidential election.

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