Amidst Restlessness, Museveni Set For Fifth Term
For the fifth time, if President Yoweri Museveni is set to confront the opposition as he seeks to extend his 30-year hold on power. While his victory may go the way of previous ones, despite increasing disenchantment, holding Uganda together would not be a tea party, as the echoes of the last 2011 exercise persists.
In fact, a Ugandan journalist told The Guardian that “there would be trouble this time around, different from the past if the status quo is returned. There is no way he is going to win; except if the election is rigged. And if that happens, Museveni may have a lot of sleepless nights. Already, there are pointers to the desperation of the government to remain in power, as soldiers are everywhere in Kampala and other crucial towns.”
This fear may have been given fillip as many Ugandans refused to publicly air their views on the February 18 election. “Those in government are in desperate situation, and they will not stop at anything in dealing with those in the way of their intentions,” one of such people, a professor at the Makerere Univeristy, Makerere, told The Guardian.
According to him, “Not that Kizza (Museveni’s opponent) is coming up with any convincing issue-based promises that stand him out, but many Ugandans are just tired of Museveni, especially the young voters. Many of them were born into a Uganda they know of no other leader, but Museveni. They are tired. They just want a change…for once.”
The 2011 polls took place in an extremely bitter atmosphere, and followed by an unprecedented campaign of Walk-to-Work protests, riots in different cities and live bullets being used against demonstrators. Museveni amassed 68 percent of the votes, despite allegations that more than five million registered voters failed to turn out for the elections.
But despite calls, especially by Ugandans in the Diaspora, for voters to choose either of Museveni’s two closest opponents, the outcome of February 18 polls may not be different from previous exercises. These candidates are of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Dr. Kizza Besigye, and John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister, who will be running under the GoForward banner. Mbabazi was also a former secretary general of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).
Backed by the NRM, Museveni came to power in 1986 after a guerilla war, and has been in office since, under the platform of the party.
The 1996 and 2001 elections were held under the one party system the NRM referred to as “no-party” democracy. But in 2005 a return to multi-party politics was introduced after a successful ‘Yes’ vote in a nationwide referendum, which also amended the Constitution to lift the two-term limit on the office of the president.
Since then, Museveni has who won three presidential terms and on the verge of a fifth. According to a research by World International Polls last August, 45 percent of voters did not believe that the elections would lead to a change of guard, despite Museveni’s loss of popularity. The turnout on Thursday is also expected to be low.
However, there may be a slight departure from what has characterised presidential elections in the last 15 years, where the FDC candidate made some show, only to fizzle out at the polls.
For his trouble, Besigye, who was recently released from house arrest, will be running for the fourth time against Museveni. This time, he has a huge crowd following.
If show of crowd counts for much, the East African country may be heading for a change. But then, crowds don’t always translate into election victories; especially on the continent, where leaders are known to have employed all manner of weapons in achieving their desired goals.
Charged with multiple criminal offences during the campaigns, the retired colonel’s participation in the 2006 elections ended in controversy after he rejected the outcome and the Supreme Court upheld Museveni’s re-election, despite finding electoral irregularities. These included, bribery, threats, violence and preventing citizens to vote. There are allegations that Besigye was prevented from addressing rallies.
In one of the most bizarre show of power, Besigye was stopped twice by the police on his way to a campaign rally in the Kabale district of southwestern Uganda. The reason the police gave, was that the presidential candidate intended to disrupt business at a market on his way to his campaign venue.
A Ugandan-based NGO, the Human Rights Network-Uganda (HRINET-U) issued a report citing cases of members from opposition parties who have gone missing, while others who have been arrested have not been charged or been brought before the courts.
Such incidents have raised concerns whether the electoral process will be free and fair.
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