By Edward Tumwine…
KAMPALA. The recent Presidential elections in Uganda gathered substantive local and International media attention to the East African region, putting the regional body politic to a grand expose.
Tanzania (East Africa’s chief Diplomat) having earlier conducted her own elections in which John Pombe Magufuli managed to garner a landslide for the Chama Cha Mapinduzi, Tanzania’s independence party with not much dispute (except for isolated murmurs about lack of clarity), the world shifted focus on how Uganda would traverse this ‘hard to do task in Africa’.
From mainstream to social media, the Uganda election end result would be debated in context of a means to political-economic transformation vis-a-vise the devastating effects that come with ill-prepared power transitions. The economic recovery reforms initiated by the Magufuli administration in Tanzania formed basis for pro-change activist in Uganda while the conservative wing quoted the Libyan experience.
International agencies and high profile figures took keen interest in the run up to this election as never before in Uganda’s history. The political environment inhaled a fresh breathe by a new rival; former Uganda Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi. He has been a close ally of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni in his entire political life. Their relationship date as far back as the earlier political struggles against the Idi Amin dictatorship and later at the core of the Rebel rebellion against then president Milton Obote.
Both men publicly fell out when Mbabazi questioned his boss’s regime longevity and finally declared intentions to oust him.
Video of Mbabazi Declaring his Presidential Bid
A wider Ugandan public looked at him as an emissary of diplomacy, with positive political criticism as opposed to the ‘politics of us verses them’ which characterizes Uganda Political opposition. Analysts would later say Mbabazi lacks the moral authority to deeply criticize a government he has served and fully been in charge of for three decades.
Without doubt, Mbabazi made the political scene more lively. He opened the doors to the both the internal and external political share holders and subjected Uganda political transition to a robust regional and international debate. For the first-time, Uganda religious fraternity, ex-diplomats and civil society organisation took a position on the election and formed “loose coalitions” to give guidance to the politics.
Outside Uganda, Mbabazi paid courtesy call to Kenya’s Orange for Democratic Movement Leader and Africa political opposition Icon, Raila Odinga to mediate between him and opposition Leader Kiza Besigye in a bid to front a joint opposition candidate.
Besigye, who has tussled with Museveni for the past 15 years and has been subject to state repression and cruelty boasted of a popular people support than Mbabazi. This formed the center of their disagreement on joint candidature.
Even a close door meeting of both men with ex-United Nations Secretary General Koffi Annan and Former Chief Prosecutor of International Criminal Court Luis Moreno Ocampo in London, didn’t yield much fodder for political cohesion between the two men.
“We have held a two-day meeting in London, UK to continue the discussions previously held in Nairobi, Kenya…We have made substantial progress in preparations for the 2016 general elections in Uganda,” read a statement signed by both Candidates.
Adding; “We will subsequently report to our respective political structures so as to complete the arrangements guaranteeing our success in the presidential elections.”
The ‘hue and cry’ which came with the news of the Annan-Ocampo meeting visibly didn’t shake Museveni and the entire ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. Museveni, of course with a superior financial backing and a series of perks associated with his office made better use of all them against his opponents. He gathered wider state media coverage as compared to his rival candidates.
Uganda Election law prohibits any candidate to address rallies beyond 6: pm local time. But a shrewd Museveni would twist this provision too to suit his wish, telling his supporters “I address you as the President, not a presidential candidate”.
Police and security operatives who are supposed to enforce this law would instead defend their ‘boss’
“President Museveni could have had a reason. I will talk to the managers and see why they did it.” Uganda Police boss kale Kayihura said during a police briefing
Having “reason” as Kayihura put it did not apply to other political contenders. Besigye for example was and still is persona non grata in some areas in Uganda especially in the capital Kampala.
“I am making this statement on behalf of the security agencies…we aren’t going to allow him (Besigye) to paralyze the streets and highways,” Uganda Police boss said in response to the massive crowds that would follow the opposition leader at the apex of the campaign.
These crowds, visibly an amalgam of people from the informal sector and the majority urban poor were also a source of funding for Besigye. He reported receiving over 90 million shillings in donations from the supporters.
Police would later engage in running battles as this man, publicly styled the ‘People’s President’ tried to access areas that the regime rendered a no go area for him. Besigye had shifted his campaign to Hospitals and Schools as a way of trying to expose the gaps within the public service delivery.
“We are doing what we are doing within the law. I appeal to Ugandans to be peaceful and…vote for change. What the police are trying to do is to intimidate people from voting for change,” he would say in defiance.
By the time Uganda elections results where announced, He had been arrested four times in a space of only one week. He was first arrested two days to the elections, then again at a secret police facility in Naguru shortly after the counting of votes had started at polling stations countrywide.
The two men’s failure to agree to oust Museveni jointly created a divided opposition. However, the group seemed to gather momentum, pulling mammoths compared to the incumbent.
These crowds formed the basis that the February 18, 2016 election with the irregularities observed across the country that not robbed them of victory, but disenfranchised a greater section of Ugandans.
Delay in delivery of voting material in opposition strongholds, immense military presence in the city, and a deliberate refusal to include results from opposition strongholds on the national Tally sheet among other ills characterized the election. These are the grounds upon which the Presidential Election Petition. The petition has been dismissed.
“The Election Commission nominated Museveni lawfully in accordance with the Presidential Elections Act,” Chief Justice Bart Katureebe said as he read the ruling to a packed court in the capital Kampala.