When Democracy Insults
Dear Ugandans at heart,
If there was any hope of free, fair, and credible elections in Uganda this year, that hope was dashed the moment President Yoweri Museveni decided to run for president. I shall return to this.
After the 2006 electoral heist, it looked like we couldn’t sink any lower in electoral malfeasance. We thought we had seen it all and nobody could take 31 million people for a ride ever again in the name of democracy. It looked increasingly likely that election 2011 would bring the political change the country so desperately needed. The opposition under Interparty Cooperation had the support of almost all Ugandans before Museveni spoilt everything.
Based on this assumption, Ugandans were willing to make the necessary sacrifice.And so we approached the 2011 elections with a lot of hope and plenty of promises from the president and the electoral commission. The elections have come and gone. Unfortunately, they were neither free and fair nor credible. Electoral malpractices were widespread. The fraud was manifest in the inflation of votes, multiple thumb printing (evidence abound on Youtube), buying of voter’s card, inducement and buying of voters on election day, the seizure of polling stations and sharing of ballot papers, underage voting, violence, and intimidation of voters. The list is endless.
The point is that the election fell below expectation. Some would argue that it was a marked improvement from 2006. That may be the case. But that argument is meaningless if one considers the unprecedented post-election violence that has been meted out to the likes of Besigye and Mao, and the fact that other parties rejected the results.
It seems our greatest undoing as a nation is our predilection for mediocrity and perversion of transformational values. Old men in Uganda are nolonger afraid of telling lies in public. Kivenjinja Kirunda, the minister of internal affairs, has been the greates liar of all, followed by president Museveni himself.
The ‘’Independent’’ Electoral Commission (EC) may not have been in a position to deal with a lot of the anomalies witnessed during the election, but that is not to say the commission is completely blameless. Clearly, EC was not prepared for the election and it showed a lack of authority and determination at every turn.
For example, in some regions, there were marked differences in the provisional and final figures after the voter registration exercise which EC could not explain. The number of invalid votes during the elections shows that EC did not take seriously the issue of voter education. In a country with one of the highest level of illiteracy, why did EC make the sample ballot paper a mystery?
When president Museveni said that EC was the only body with the authority to fix the order of election, after Besigye had announced that he would announce his own results, we all knew that elections were not going to be free and fair. Some of the lame excuses the EC offered included the statement that ballot papers had been printed, as if that had any bearing on the date the election would take place. So much for commitment to free and fair election! With over 20 million US dollars and a lot of goodwill from Ugandans, EC ought to have done better but they didnt. Dr.Kiggundu, chairman of EC, is a known NRM cadre and he is likely to remain chairman for as long as Museveni is still president of Uganda.
But if we focus on EC we miss the point. President Museveni’s entry into the presidential race changed the dynamics of the election. Was he going to run to lose, in a country where money is everything and incumbency rules, no matter the level of incompetence?
Regrettably, most in NRM have refused to see that Uganda is bigger than President Museveni or his ambitions. Of course, there was the moral burden he faced in his party. But beyond that was the inability to appreciate that one of the greatest problems confronting us as a nation is bad leadership. Museveni is simply the most selfish leader Uganda has had since independence.
Since independence, we have had the misfortune of being saddled with morally bankrupt, inept and visionless leaders. And this has persisted because we haven’t been able to conduct credible elections. It is either competent people are rigged out or they do not trust the system enough to run for office. President Museveni had the golden opportunity to change that in 1996 but he has proved to be worse than past presidents. He has killed more people than both Obote and Amin Combined but the western media started to talk about it just this year during the ‘WALK TO WORK’ protests when Arinaitwe Gilbert treated Besigye like a sack of potatoes in a pick up.
Once he decided to run, President Museveni had to do all he needed to do to win, whether it meant running what perhaps was the most expensive presidential campaign in history, in total disregard of the country’s electoral laws, bending the rules to favour him or coercing governors to get their support.We need a courageous leader; one who is willing to make sacrifices on our behalf. President Museveni failed Uganda in this regard.
As always, there are those who would want us to be amnesiac. We need to move Uganda forward is their ever ready answer to our political and social problems. But the next five years will not be dedicated to governance in any form. From May 12, 2011, the race will begin in the ruling party on who will succeed President Museveni in 2016, that is if he keeps his promise to serve his final term. In the months ahead there will be political jobbers who will resurrect the debate of 7-year tenure for the president.
I’m also surprised with the media that keeps giving space to the children of big people in NRM to either cement the dictatorship ideas in the country or continue to confuse Ugandans. For example, the Daily Monitor has been publishing articles from Mbabazi’s daughter and they are slowly turning her into some form of a serious intellectual person yet she is clearly confusing Ugandans. Before we know it, Muhoozi will also start appearing more in the Newvision on a regular basis as if we have not had enough of this rotten batch.