Uganda will hold presidential elections this Friday 18th February. The campaigns have been more peaceful and short of scandals like in 2006 when leading opposition figure Dr.Waren Kizza Besigye was arrested after he returned to the country, after years in exile in South Africa. The 2006 campaigns were also newsier journalists in a way that President Museveni, the incumbent then and now, decided to go below the belt and throw tramped up rape charges on his former doctor.
This year we have instead had increased reports of voter bribery right from the ruling party primaries and up to now. Many agents of different politicians will be distributing soap, sugar and all little household items to snatch the last vote. It’s elections democracy made in Uganda. The trend was set as far back as 1996 elections when I saw people traverse my village in the night giving people items to vote the incumbent. Since then, the bribery has become the ever present characteristic of elections in Uganda. The Electoral Commission will put out its warnings but we all know the truth and I will be waiting to see good reports on the extent of the bribery.
I will be casting my vote but I am yet to choose the party that will take it.
One thing is for sure I will not be looking at the yellow party- the ruling NRM because of very fundamental reasons. For many, it looks like I should be an easy catch for Museveni. I am from western Uganda which many people outside tend to accuse of benefiting from this regime and therefore ‘we reward Museveni handsomely.’ I went attended my university on a government scholarship at Makerere University and therefore in some circles especially Museveni’s supporters from western Uganda, I shouldn’t be that ungrateful – government money here is seen as the president’s.
But there other demographic factors that will make me not look at the name at the end of the ballot paper. I was just three years when Museveni took over power and therefore many people of my age don’t find his speeches , which usually begin with ‘when we came here in 1986’ relevant to our lives. I am one of those many Ugandans whom you can’t use the past of this country to control their future.
When you move around the country you will see posters and billboards of President Museveni holding young school kids sort of boasting for bringing free primary education (UPE) which in my view has so far only succeeded in giving us enough dropouts who can’t spell their own name.
My grandfather was a primary school teacher and he was one of the few that educated their daughters in my village. So since my education didn’t start with President Museveni’s arrival in 1986 I don’t find reason he should take my vote.
I have seen enough with lack of institutions in my country, a place where you have to bribe someone at every stage to get things done. President Museveni has successfully presided over the largest government and his ministers seek to loot the country any chance they get. He largely gives Ugandans what they want in form of districts, expanding his administrative positions to take care of people’s tribal sentiments but he will not give them one thing, a democratic Uganda.
I was raised to know that a person who doesn’t respect elders is worthless and a visit to the ministry of public service will tell you a lot about Museveni’s government. At this building old men and women who have served this country for decades are tossed up and down as they try to access their hard earned money (pensions) others are cheated by officials who offer them shortcuts. Many people whom Museveni found serving the country die without accessing their pension. It is only announced they will be paid a few months to the elections. The ministry is just a glimpse into this lootocracy. A Parliament filled with Museveni’s backers has made it difficult to ensure prosecution of ministers that swindle government money. For anyone who cares about the future of this country, increasing the numbers of opposition members in the parliament is very vital.
I have consistently written about the crippled health system this country and how most Ugandans have to get their own money to buy drugs with hospitals that can’t even provide gloves to nurse delivering babies. And since President Museveni told Ugandans to produce till they can’t produce no more, the job of a midwife in Uganda is one of the most tedious and unrewarding ones.
We have also seen Museveni try to tell the youth in the last few days, through the New Vision newspaper, which largely leads with his stories that they shouldn’t vote the opposition for it will sabotage a government plan to give them jobs. I don’t think Ugandan youth are fools to think that what a man has not done in 25 years can achieve in 5 years. Uganda produces about 400,000 graduates from higher institutions of learning every year but less than 50,000 jobs are created annually. President Museveni and his brother Salim Saleh have even gone into security business sending hundreds of Ugandan youth to Iraq and Afghanistan to reduce the numbers of idle youth. The truth is there’s no real plan for the youth and many will not be voting for the ruling party.
President Museveni has always taken the votes of old Ugandans by reminding them of the olden troubled days of Idi Amin. Most of Uganda has been peaceful at the expense of the north and some parts of western Uganda for the last 25 years. With the attack by Al- shabab on Kampala at the World Cup final in July last year, many Ugandans are soon realizing that the threat to their lives is no longer the rebels alone. But because many have for long trusted Museveni on security, few Ugandans bother to know or even ask why their sons are fighting in Somalia.
For a regime that has enjoyed such trust on security matters, there shouldn’t be thousands of police officers at every corner in Kampala right now. Ugandans have not seen such a number of security men and no wonder people are now anxious, buying sacks of rice, maize flour and other household items thinking violence might engulf the city after Friday.
President Museveni has tried to say the he has a drug for those looking to cause trouble but the anxiety of Ugandans is not about those people that the president alone seems to know. People are scared of this increased militarism and police in different uniforms at every corner you stop. Today I went out to Wandegeya, just outside the central business area, to a shop I usually visit and people who know me as a journalist were asking me what’s going on in the city. I told them I don’t seem to know more than what they you see. Many policemen with their AK47s on the backs, few Ugandans are feeling safe ahead of Friday. It’s this increase in security men in the towns across Uganda that is giving Ugandans nightmares about possible violence at the slightest protest of anything out Friday’s vote.
We wait for the next three days and see if every home will have a policeman attached to it in the name of security.