Sunday, 21 February 2016

Uganda's polls and the lip service to democracy


Ugandans are set to hold a General Election on February 18, 2016. The incumbent Yoweri Kaguta Museveni will be facing his toughest challenge once again from his former physician, Dr Kizza Besigye. Also in the race is former prime minister Amama Mbabazi.
So far, the EU observer mission in the country has said that the situation is peaceful save for some few ugly incidents. This got me thinking, were these observers in Uganda or were they just observing from the windows of their hotel rooms? Are they witnessing or taking note of what has been happening on the streets? I am not trying to beat war drums here but encouraging my brothers and sisters in Uganda to remain peaceful and accept the outcome if at all it reflects the will of the people.
Uganda has for long waited for a democratic transition. This takes me to the debate about whether elections work in Africa or not. Well, there are some African nations like Mauritius that have held free and fair elections and are doing well. In such nations democracy is indeed paying off. The cause for scepticism is because many of our elections have been criticised with concerned parties calling for re-runs.
In Tanzania, we held peaceful polls last year on the mainland and have a president who has been lauded for his tough stance on corruption and how he has set a fast pace in various government sectors. People are happy that things are working, but wait a minute, we still have an elephant in the room to face – the Zanzibar polls got muddled and a re-run is due in March.
Dictators

Back to Uganda, elections have been what political observers call an “M7 affair’’, with the opposition always crying foul and calling for re-runs. So just how do we tackle these controversies that keep on trailing our polls in Africa?
It get’s very disturbing when politicians employ all kinds of means to get elected. We should be very worried when elections become a do-or-die affair for politicians and not the citizens. Such will go to an extent of using gangs to kill, maim and rape those that oppose them. Interestingly, it is we the electorates who still elect such people to political offices, though some cheat all the way to the ballot and manipulate the outcome. 
Stories of intercepted stuffed ballots are all too common in this side of the Sahara, an indication of election malpractices that stink to high heavens. And for the leaders, they simply use the security apparatus to scare away dissent so they can cling to power for as long as they want.
We need elections that can really shake up African dictators who are power hungry and greedy. This is why the electorates need to be educated on democracy. There are also that breed of leaders who come in with all the energy and good intentions for their citizenry. They work so well in their early years until corruption and nepotism suddenly set in., morphing into something like their middle names.  
I want to also touch on something about the West, which I find very interesting. They rarely condemn African dictators who serve their interests, even if the lives of the citizenry in such states are at stake. It seems like they condemn rigging in some countries and endorse the same in others.
I will leave it here but for one thing: As long as a country's judiciary, electoral body and other organs are not independent, elections will just be for record-keeping purposes and nothing more. Vote rigging and manipulation of results will be the order of the day. As of now, may the best candidate in Uganda win and I wish them peaceful polls.

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