Ugandans set for elections amid tight campaigns
Kampala Uganda; It is all systems go as over 15 million Ugandans get set to participate in a general election that has witnessed one of the toughest campaigns against incumbent President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who has reigned in power for 30 years since 1986.
The campaigns for the polls that shall be held on Thursday 18th February 2016 have reached the homestretch as each candidate especially for the presidency are doing their final touches in their bid to woo voters to vote for them on the election day.
The top seat of president has attracted seven candidates who are battling to seize power from Museveni who is seeking for a fifth term in power through elections since the voting system started in 1996 ten years after he took power through a militia group that had fought from the forest for over five years.
Among the seven candidates who are facing Museveni are his former allies during the guerrilla warfare Dr. Kizza Besigye who was his personal physician in the bush and Amama Mbabazi who was one of his senior most leaders in his administration before he opted to vie against his boss in the forthcoming polls.
Dr. Besiggye is vying on his Freedom for Democratic Change – FDC party ticket while Mbabazi is vying on the Go Forward party ticket.
Others include Abed Bwanika of People’s Development Party (PDP), Benon Biraaro of Uganda Farmers Party – (UFP), Venansius Baryamureeba, Joseph Mabirizi and Faith Kyalya who are all vying independently.
However the battle has been narrowed to a two-horse race between long term rivals Museveni and Dr. Besiggye who have raised temperatures in Uganda with residents fearing that in the end the country might experience chaos depending on the presidential contest.
President Museveni has been faulted for purchasing police armoured vehicles in the midst of campaigns as critics claim that he is preparing to cling in power and protect himself with the police and other forces including UPDF – Uganda people’s Defense Force that are said to be loyalists to the head of state.
Other leaders from Museveni’s Movement Party – NRM have been quoted in sections of Ugandan media that Museveni will not relinquish power if he loses to Besiggye or any other candidate, claims that Museveni has refuted.
On his side Museveni has accused Besiggye for building a militia to cause chaos in the elections after losing to him.
Besiggye has recruited ten people in every poll station across the country in a move he said is aimed at protecting the votes from being stolen.
The opposition leader who has been quoted saying that the ten people dubbed 10 Power can even rise to 100 in each polling station for the sake of ensuring there are no irregularities encountered during the voting and announcing of the results.
As much as Amama Mbabazi has also had his share of supporters in the campaigns, many Ugandans feel that he is more of a Museveni project bearing in mind that he was in Museveni’s system for many years hence he should also bear the brunt of the ill deeds by the establishment and thus not taking him serious in his bid for the top seat.
Many Ugandans who spoke to West Fm in Kampala yearn for change of guard although many of them fear that he may not hand-over power to the winner and therefore making recipe for chaos.
“Since I was born Museveni was in power and now I am getting old he is still in power and I may die when he is still in power. We need change here,” said one youthful hawker of clothes within the central business district of Kampala town.
The current scenario of campaigns that has seen president Museveni given a run for his money in his entire tenure as president of Uganda leave many Ugandans worried that the country may plunge into civil war again if Museveni refuses to hand over power if he loses or if Besiggye refuses to accept the results if Museveni is declared winner.
According to the constitution of Uganda the elections are held in three categories ranging from the one that comprises the presidential, parliamentary and district members of parliament who shall be voted for on 18th February.
The second category comprises of urban areas where the Lord Mayors and Lord Councilors represent people at the district or city level whereas at the rural set up there shall be elections for the Local Council 5 famously known as LC5 and councilors representing sub-counties with other elections for the divisional mayors LC3 chairpersons.
The last category of elections that shall be held on 10th March 2016 shall comprise the special interest groups comprising of persons with disabilities, the elderly whereby two councilors a woman and a male representing the groups under the category.
Like in Kenya women MPs in Uganda also seek for votes at district levels where they campaign in various constituencies found in a given district whereby Uganda has 112 districts and 385 constituencies that different candidates are battling to be elected to represent their people in the Uganda parliament.
Uganda a country that is slowly embracing democratic trends and systems of conducting free and fair elections at different levels has introduced the bio-metric voter identification kits for the first time that shall be used to identify voters at different poll stations before they are allowed to vote in Thursday’s elections.
The kit that has the voter produce his or her registration slip or national identity card is able to identify the voter by displaying his or her photo on the screen and the identification details of the voter.
According to Uganda electoral commission officials including Charles Ntare who is the Returning officer for the larger Kampala district that has over one million registered voters, the commission has sensitized the voters on the new kit before they use it in the main elections.
“We have had two sessions of sensitizing the voters at every district headquarters whereby the voters who turned up were shown how the kit is used and we are sure there shall be no problem during the voting day,” said Ntare.
However he said that there had been a notion among the voters that when the kits are used on them they will be able to know and identify the candidate they votes for and thus instilling fear in them hence the sessions have also demystified the notion.
He confirmed that the commission had received virtually all the elections material and was set for the polls on the D-Day.
Interestingly the voters were not registered through bio-metric system and the new system only applies in identifying the voters and also the location where they are supposed to vote from but cannot relay the results electronically to the district tallying centers and national tallying centers thus subjecting them to be transported manually.
Many Ugandans have no faith in the electoral system that shall culminate in the final announcement of the final presidential results relayed from the Mandela National Stadium in Nambole within Kampala City.
A total of 15,294,070 voters have been registered to vote in the Thursday 18th February general elections in Uganda.