Countdown To Elections

Monday, February 7, 2011
By ugandansabroad


By David Tash Lumu

Kampala (Ugandans Abroad)– When it comes to elections, Kampala goes amok with violence. It is a period where all sorts of operatives come to the fore, apparently to show their master—the incumbent—how loyal they are. But in an interesting turn of events, the presidential and parliamentary race has been by and large—peaceful.

Besigye campaigns in Mbarara. Edward Echwalu.

Perhaps riddled with fear that the opposition might use his errors to rally the masses and the international community to force him out when he wins—wrongly or rightly—President Museveni, the ruling NRM candidate has tried to minimize bad campaign practices, at least for now.

In the past elections, 2001 and 2006, the president’s main challenger, Dr. Kizza Besigye, was arrested and his supporters beaten thoroughly by the infamous Kalangala action group militias—headed by Museveni’s aide, Kakooza Mutale.  This time ’round, Museveni’s strategy is extremely friendly.

During campaigns, people assemble peacefully, and candidates, including Museveni, observe the electoral laws.  Campaigns stop at 6 p.m, as the Electoral Commission prescribed.

In fact, the media has been bored this time round—no drama, limited chaos and no candidate has been arrested yet.  On the streets, citizens are often discussing European soccer than the expected: who will be the next president? Even the media runs with headlines, which are totally far from campaigns—such as the list of top performing students in primary leaving exams.  Reason: no drama in campaigns.

On February 18, Ugandans will choose their president after a tight-race that has seen seven contestants comb villages across the country soliciting for support.

Winnie Byanyima, the wife of Besigye on leave from the UN, gives an interview on the Nile River to an Observer journalist. Edward Echwalu.

Interestingly, this election comes at a time when stakes are so high. Like in North Africa—Egypt and Tunisia, citizens are now in charge of their affairs—vehemently dictating how they should be governed and who they want to do it.

Here in Kampala, many observers, have already predicted that the absence of drama and chaos during the campaigns might birth a shocker—especially when the overall winner is the incumbent—Museveni.

And just like Kenya in 2007, the situation in Uganda might be worse—mainly at this time when people have clear-cut examples in North Africa to draw lessons from.

Already, Besigye has declared that he would not go to court if his victory is rigged by Museveni.  What will he do? “This is not my battle alone. It is a battle for all Ugandans. And it is Ugandans who will decide,” said Besigye, who has insisted that he will tally and announce his own results.

Yet, as if to prepare for the inevitable, the police has already imported tons of tear gas, armored vehicles, and anti-riot utilities.  It has recruited willing citizens under the scheme of community policing.

“We are ready,” Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, the Inspector General of Police told journalists recently.

On the other hand, the Electoral Commission boss, Eng. Badru Kiggundu, has also issued a warning to Besigye—specifically advising him to abandon his project of announcing results.

This warning has also been amplified by the incumbent, Museveni.

“No one is allowed to announce results apart from the chairman of the Electoral Commission,” Museveni said.

The opposition thinks that the votes might be rigged. They front the  refusal by the Electoral Commission to provide voters’ cards, which they say might play well in the hands of their opponent—Museveni.

One opposition candidate, Olara Otunnu (UPC), has collected signatures from people across the country that he hopes to use in court shortly after elections to challenge the independence of the Electoral Commission.

That aside, another collision is shaping up between the Electoral Commission and over 70 MPs.  The Constitutional Court directed these MPs to vacate their seats, and called for their nominations to be cancelled by the electoral body.  These MPs are blamed for breached Article 83 of the Constitution, when they crossed to various parties without first resigning from parliament.

However, they have appealed against the Constitutional ruling to the Supreme Court. But if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling, the Electoral Commission will have to re-print the ballot papers to expunge their names off.  This may demand the extension of the polling date from February 18.

One of such MPs is Beti Olive Kamya, a presidential candidate on the Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) ticket.  Kamya, is now recuperating from intestinal complication in hospital—a threat that might keep her out of campaigns for a while.

However, as Kamya continues to struggle with the illness, other contenders are busy trying to consolidate their support in these few remaining days of campaigns.

Museveni is in Buganda, a region viewed as too hostile to fully support him—especially at this time when relations between central government and the Kabaka-led Buganda Kingdom are at an all-time low.

Besigye is in the western part of the country, a region largely viewed as Museveni’s stronghold. However, this support might be swayed by Besigye after his wife, Winnie Byanyima, who took leave from her UN job to storm the campaigns.

A woman in Moyo district at a Besigye campaign rally flashes the V sign. Edward Echwalu.

Other contenders, DP’s Nobert Mao, PDP’s Abed Bwanika, Otunnu and Independent, Sam Lubega, are also making last minute inroads in an already divided electorate—between Museveni and Besigye.

Opinion polls, have however, billed Museveni to retain the presidency with many ranking him at 60% while giving Besigye as little 14%.  Will 2011 live up to to the public’s expectations, as well as that of the media? We’ll have to find out.

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One Response to “Countdown To Elections”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rebecca Harshbarger and AfricaConnections, AfricaConnections. AfricaConnections said: Countdown to Ugandan elections, excellent analysis by David Tash Lumu, and amazing photographs by the talented… http://fb.me/MeALse9I [...]

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