Ugandans Head to 2011 Polls
By Paul Ndiho
February 17, 2011
Millions of Ugandans head to the polls today with mixed feelings as they vote in presidential and parliamentary elections.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday re-iterated his threat to arrest main opposition leader, DR. Kizza Besigye, if Besigye carries out his vow to contest the election not in the courts, but in the streets. General Museveni has ruled the East African country for over two decades, and is running for the fourth time as the candidate of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).
“If he does not want to go to court will be in order as it will mean our lawyers won’t be paid any money to feed themselves for free, but to say that he will come into power through violence, there is no other way for us but to arrest him.”
Most political analysts expect General Museveni will win, because he’s large sums of money on his campaign – tens of millions of dollars in state funds, according to critics, and paying people to go to his rallies. But General Museveni dismisses claims that Uganda might explode with street chaos if the poll is not fair.
“There will not be any Egyptian-like revolution here, because we are freedom fighters, we are not office people, there is nobody who can use extra- constitutional means to take power here, that one is out of the question.”
54 year-old Kizza Besigye, who is facing former ally Museveni for the third time, says a popular uprising in Uganda was “even more likely” than in either Egypt or Tunisia after what he says are years of corruption. Besigye is the leader of the Inter-Party Cooperation or IPC Party, which intends to release its own polling results. The IPC says that if their results do not match the official figures, supporters will protest.
Besigye unsuccessfully appealed to the Supreme Court after losing in the last two polls, but says this he will appeal to the public instead. He says he has been threatened with arrest before by General Museveni:
“Am not surprised, that’s the way he behaves whenever he is seriously threatened with the defeat. Actually he arrested me the last election and it will not come as a surprise that he is threatening, rattling and generally losing his composure as head of State.”
Besigye and Museveni are going head-to-head at the ballot box for the third time. An urban-rural divide has emerged in Uganda, with Besigye enjoying strong support in urban areas and making inroads into Museveni’s rural base of support. Besigye says that like Egypt, Uganda is looking for change:
“Egypt I think is not a situation that is unique to Egypt where the population is frustrated with institution of state they take the power back to themselves and use it to cause the changes they need and I think we are approaching that situation here.”
Museveni and Besigye took to the streets on the final day of campaigns urging their supporters to turn up in large numbers at the polls.
At Museveni’s rally, the grounds were swamped with supporters wearing yellow as the party colors and Besigye’s were all in blue.
Car horns blared, people bashed drums and stereo speakers pumped out songs in support of both candidates – and six other hopefuls – drowning out the afternoon election chatter as many escaped the noise and the sun in dark cafes.