Uganda Elections Preview

By Paul Ndiho, Washington DC
February 15, 2011

Stakes are high in Uganda as the nation prepares to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections this week. Despite 25 years of economic growth and relative stability, many Ugandans are concerned about the state of democracy in their country.
Ugandans will go to the polls to elect their president on February 18 for the fourth time since the reinstitution of democracy. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the East African country for over two decades, is running for the fourth time as the candidate of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), seeking a continuation of his 25-year rule. General Museveni took power in 1986, (and) changed the constitution in 2005 to end presidential term limits. Earlier this month, he began an airborne political campaign; flying planes blasting music across the country. This tactic has come under fire from Museveni’s critics, who say he is spending taxpayer money for his own purposes, but Museveni dismisses those claims.

“NRM’s 25 years heritage to Uganda is a solid foundation for a progressive nation. What this means is while we have achieved recovery we are now going to take off.”
The election pits General Museveni against his closest rival, Dr. Kizza Besigye, in the third face-off between the two men. Analysts say it is a test of democracy in a country about to start producing oil. Besigye is the leader of Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC), a coalition of four parties.
President Museveni defeated Besigye in elections in 2001 and 2006 in elections marred by accusations of widespread fraud. Uganda’s opposition criticizes the Museveni government, calling it corrupt and repressive. Kizza Besigye says that there is a lot anger in Uganda and if upcoming elections are not free and fair, Uganda might be ripe for unrest.
“There is a lot of anger, frustration in our society without doubt, whether the rigging of the elections is what will trigger off that kind of public riots is one that I think is open to speculations, these things can be triggered by anything and normally it is the smallest thing that triggers of the beginning of such riots, but the ground is certainly set for that kind of public expression.”
Democratic Party leader Norbert Mao is another presidential candidate who is worried about the credibility of Uganda’s upcoming presidential elections.
“If we don’t have free and fair elections, we are going back to the cycle of violence that we thought was now behind us.”
Olara Otunnu, Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) presidential candidate is another newcomer to the Ugandan political scene. He’s the former United Nations Undersecretary for Children in Armed Conflict Zones. Otunnu returned to Uganda last year after 23 years in exile to run for president.
Other presidential contenders include Dr. Abed Bwanika of the Peoples’ Development Party (PDP), Betty Kamya, Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) presidential candidate, Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) presidential candidate, and Samuel Lubega, an Independent.

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