UGANDA ON THE BRINK:
THE REGION HOLDS ITS BREATH.
REPORTS OF BALLOT DELAYS, ARRESTS, ABDUCTIONS OF OPPOSITION POLLING AGENTS,SUPERVISORS AND KEY SUPPORTERS.
There are louder calls for the international community to stand with the 45 million Ugandans.
There are growing serious concerns that the Ugandan Election has not been conducted freely and fairly. Circumstances that could eventually favour the almost octogenarian incumbent, in power, since 1986.
The main challenger reported that both his wife and his phone were cut off. If true, this raises real fears of his safety and his ability to communicate to his supporters, family and the international community. In a tweet, Bobi Wine stated, Like my wife’s, my phone has been blocked and I am unable to receive or make regular calls. I know this is to stop me from communicating to our agents and coordinators. I encourage you comrades to be vigilant as I try to devise ways of reaching out to you. #WeAreRemovingADictator. Conspiracy by the dictator & his biased Electoral Commission is in a new phase. A plot to rig is set, internet is completely shut down & media is censored. However, the pple of uganda are firm and nothing will stop them from ending this oppresive regime.
Another senior opposition party leader, warned of potential consequences of such actions by the regime. Mugisha Muntu stated that, ‘In Burunga Kazo, our coordinator has been arrested while in Ntungamo, a ballot box has been stolen. The regime is making it innevitable for Ugandans to not only distrust the polling process and results, but also everything “official”. This isn’t a road we should tread.’
Another independent presidential candidate is quoted as having stated that, “I have just voted but look, after using the sanitizer, there is no evidence I have voted anywhere, you can tell the difference,” he said. “How do you buy ink pads bought from Nkrumah to defend elections, these are used for stamping documents when running a small company ….,” Mr Tumukunde added.
The same local newspaper the Daily Monitor, stated, that ‘Voting in the opposition stronghold of Masaka has been delayed this morning as the country goes to the polls.Despite delay in delivery of election material to polling stations, the Electoral Commission is yet to clarify if voting times will be extended’.
It added later that, Hundreds of his supporters have been jailed without any charges being preferred against them while others have been prosecuted formally. Such as in Bududa.
Other commentators already judged the election not free fair. Charles Obbo a prominent journalist, stated that, ‘#UgandaDecides2021 today, with social media shuttered. There has been no free, fair & secure election anywhere with a social media (& internet) blackout. So, people of the Pearl of Africa, be safe however you vote. DAY 3 of #WhileUgWasBlockaded’.
Another user tweeted : ‘#Kayunga Voting hadn’t started by 10 am over non functional biometric machines. One @PoliceUg officer per polling station in the villages but heavier deployment in towns. Huge voter turnout! People are staying after voting! #WeAreRemovingADictator #UgandaDecides2021'
An online popular handle also stated that, @ekyootoNews reaching indicate pre- ticked boxes are been delivered in kasali masaka. News reaching our desk indicate that the @UgandaEC has not yet delivered polling material in kampala.
A local paper the observer, reported that, ‘Opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) and Democratic Party (DP) supporters in Kyotera are living in fear following the arrest of several campaign agents, strategists and supporters by unidentified operatives. Those allegedly arrested include among others; Sam Kiwanuka Lukyamuzi, Vincent Musajja, Sulaiti Kyambadde, Ronald Muwonge and Andrew Kawuma. Others have only been identified as Lusembo, Kasiita, Luyobya.The party officials say their members were arrested from their respective homes by unidentified security personnel on Friday, Saturday, Sunday last week and Monday this week. Charles Kirumira Lwanga, the Kyotera County NUP parliamentary candidate, says their members were picked up by armed operatives in uniform and some dressed in plain-clothes who were travelling in two numberless Toyota Hiace Drone vans who took them away’.
A local human rights organisation appears to corroborate these reports. ‘It called on the international community while condemning the mass arrests, People’s Human Rights Forum (PHRF) @UgandaHuman We condemn a massive arrest of innocent citizens in rural areas’.
Tensions and intimidation remain high as the voting continued throughout the day. But there also seems to be resolve, fortitude and hope to stand up to the killings, oppression and abductions by the regime.
Manifested by reports such as the shot Journalist Ashraf Kasirye being ‘brought from his sick bed at Rubaga hospital in an ambulance to cast his vote in Nansana. #UgVotes2021'
Among the statements attributed to the incumbent, an almost octogenarian, but then young rebel leader now turned ruler, in power since 1986, is one that appears to have come full circle to haunt him. After ousting the then military government of Tito Okello, the current ruler of Uganda, almost in power for forty years, is said to have stated that, “The problem of Africa in general, and Uganda in particular, is not the people, but leaders who want to overstay in power.” The same analogy can be extended to say that its leaders like him in particular and ‘Musevenism’ in general, that are Africa’s problem in general and Uganda’s main democratic stumbling block, in particular.
Since November 2020, the world has witnessed one of the most violent electoral campaigns in the world and certainly in the small country’s history. The leading opposition campaign entire campaign team and supporters have either been either abducted, killed or jailed. While some supporters travelling from the diaspora were reportedly either intimidated and arrested.
On the 18/19th, November 2020 scores of unarmed civilians were killed while others remain incarcerated despite court orders for their release while others remain unaccounted for in so-called safe houses.
Journalists have been attacked with bullets, assaulted or threatened while others remain in fear of their lives. Throughout the campaign, Bobi Wine and the NUP party have seen their offices raided, blocked from using main roads, campaigning in key populated areas of his supporters, shooting of at his car with live bullets, killing of his body guard and other assistants. The credibility and integrity of the entire electoral process is in serious doubt after many journalists have been denied accreditation or deported.
The United States Embassy issued a statement regarding the refusal of international observers while Facebook, twitter and Instagram blocked the regime propagandists. The regime has also switched off social media at a critical time when absolute transparency in monitoring the elections and the results is absolutely critical. There are also reports that the regime could imminently impose a total internet blackout.
Perhaps more concerning is the excessive and unnecessary deployment of the military and other various paramilitary outfits with military grade weapons and hardware.
Some of the key leading clergy appear to be either silenced, compromised or have openly made statements that call for the cancellation of the elections to allow another three years for the incumbent to organize another election.
Cumulatively therefore, there seems to be deliberate sustained intimidation, oppression and violence against the population and in particular the supporters of Bobi Wine and his NUP party. Added to that is the grim haunting fact that the country has never had a peaceful democratic transfer of power since it gained independence in 1962.
Brief History about Uganda
A few years after independence, Uganda was plunged into violent internal conflict in 1966 that saw the dethronement of the King also the President , who died a few years later in exile in his flat in Bermondsey, located in the London borough of Southwark. The country further witnessed the much publicised years of Idi Amin, which saw the raid on Entebbe.
It was during his regime that Ugandan Asians were expelled from Uganda. Idi Amin, himself having come to power by staging a military coup d’état, was also ousted violently. The country was again shortly plunged into incessant internal violent conflict in the 80s and in the 90s in the Northern region.
Conflicts that estimated to have cumulatively cost hundreds of thousands of lives of ordinary Ugandans, women and children.
With the country due to hold elections tomorrow on the 14th January 2021, already tensions are amounting after the country’s electoral commission announced what was dubbed as ‘scientific elections’. Apart from official reports from organisations like HRW, as the current country twitter trends shows, there are increasingly strong concerns of gross human rights violations.
Potential regional Impact
Critically for the regional and international partners, Uganda lies in a delicate Great Lakes/East African region bordered by countries emerging from decades of brutal civil wars. Such as South Sudan to the north, DRC to the west, Rwanda and Burundi to the South, not far from Somalia. While Tanzania lies to the south and Kenya is to the East of Uganda.
Therefore, as we approach a fork in the road, given the country’s troubled political history, global friends of Uganda desperately want the country to succeed, through harnessing its natural and human resources to its maximum potential.
All parties need to ensure that this cycle of a violent political history and alleged human rights violations is significantly diminished to avoid history repeating itself.
Certainly, it is clear that the words of the incumbent rebel turned ruler, that “The problem of Africa in general, and Uganda in particular, is not the people, but leaders who want to overstay in power,” have turned around to haunt him and are more acute now than ever. The world, Africa, East Africa and critically Uganda, holds its breath and waits the outcome of a transformational 14th January 2021 election pitting a 38 yr old popstar turned politician, against rebel leader turned ruler.