Uganda Elections 2016: Towards Another Rigged NRM Vote


Gen. Museveni; after 30 years dictatorship, looks to extend in February

[Africa Commentary: Uganda]

Wherever you turn in Uganda you see signs of failure as aptly expressed by Ann Coulter, the American commentator.

Kampala City is now defined by sprawling slums and floods when it rains. The ecological system is under tremendous stress. The roads and bridges are in a dangerous state leading to accidents that have claimed many lives. Youth unemployment has gone through the roof with some estimates bordering 70%.

Similarly, elections in Uganda are defined by failures because not a single election since 1958 has gone smoothly. One of the reasons for these failures is because the people have not grasped the principal purpose of elections; namely, to enable them to elect representatives that represent their interests in the legislature or presidency.

This lack of understanding has led to elections that maintain the status quo or promote interests of individuals or groups. The scheduled Feb. 18, 2016 elections appear set to keep the National Resistance Movement (NRM) dictatorship under Gen. Yoweri Museveni in power if the statements by the chief of the defense forces and the chair of the electoral commission together with the recruitment of so-called “crime preventers” are any guide. 

The first elections in Uganda were conducted in 1958 for the Legislative Council (LEGCO). Some sections of Uganda boycotted them. Buganda, with the largest population of all ethnic groups, stayed away because of its separatist objective. As pressure mounted for a unitary independent state Buganda regions resolved to leave Uganda. On December 31, 1960 the Buganda Lukiko, or parliament, declared the kingdom independent as of January 1, 1961 (see G. T. Ibingira 1980).

However, Buganda lacked the means to implement the resolution which the colonial government ignored and went ahead with conducting national assembly elections in 1961.

In response, Buganda government ordered a boycott and only 3% percent of eligible voters registered. Besides a separatist motive, religious and class considerations played a major role in boycotting the elections. The Buganda Protestant establishment led by the king, Edward Mutesa II was not ready to accept Ben Kiwanuka, a Muganda commoner and leader of the Democratic Party (DP), which was Catholic-dominated, to form a national government.

Consequently, the election in Buganda was overwhelmingly rejected. The elections for Lukiiko in 1962 were overwhelmingly won by the Kabaka Yekka (KY), or “King only” movement and rejected by DP which complained that there were many irregularities including intimidating DP supporters and the drawing up of constituency boundaries by officials in the Buganda government that favored KY (see T. V. Sathyamurthy 1986).

There was no election in 1971 as Idi Amin seized power.

The first elections after independence were conducted in December 1980. They were contested by Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), Democratic Party (DP), Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) and the Conservative Party (CP) and were won by UPC.

Although there were some irregularities, the Commonwealth Observer Mission endorsed them and DP reluctantly accepted them and formed the official opposition in Parliament. However, the leader of UPM, Yoweri Museveni, whose party won one seat in the elections rejected the results and embarked on a very destructive five-years guerrilla war.

Since Museveni the former UPM leader came to power as the leader of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), Uganda has conducted elections in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011. All of them have been won by the NRM and all of them rejected by the opposition parties as fraudulently conducted.

The 2016 elections appear set to produce results in favor of NRM that will automatically be rejected by the opposition parties. Already opposition leaders in particular Amama Mbabazi, former prime minister in Gen. Museveni’s government and Dr. Kizza Besigye, who is the flag-bearer for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, are being frustrated by security forces and some of their supporters are already under arrest.

Free and fair elections will take place in Uganda only when the people oppose vested interests and demand that a level playing field is provided by having an independent electoral commission, keeping the security forces out of politics and ensuring that presidential and parliamentary candidates have the same amount of campaign finance in each category to eliminate those with too much money from buying the election.

Until this happens, elections in Uganda will continue to serve vested rather than public interests. That is why some Ugandans have proposed an inclusive transitional government to, among other things, convene a national convention to define the purpose of democracy and elections and decide how Ugandans want to be governed.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *