Uganda will be the same after the 2021 elections

Wednesday January 22 2020


By Nicholas Sengoba

Most of 2020 will be about the coming General Election of 2021. Should the incumbent President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni offer himself as a candidate, history will set the agenda and write the script of how things will play out.
It is ominous that many within the National Resistance Movement (NRM) are already speaking out about how ‘power is not given on a silver platter.’

The police and other security organs as usual are taking shelter under the small print of the Public Order Management Act to stop many in the Opposition to organise and market their ideas.

It is in the knowledge of many of those offering themselves to ‘remove’ Museveni from power that they face an uphill task whatever type of election is organised by the Electoral Commission (EC) So do the donors, and those warming up to come and observe the election. But we soldier on.
Looking at things realistically, come 2021 the Parliament will have many new faces going by the attrition rate of about 70 per cent from the previous elections.

But the composition will remain the same in terms of party representation. The NRM will have the lion’s share of MPs led by the Speaker and their deputy. The workers, army representatives and many of the independent MPs will gather with them like vultures at a site of a lifeless carcass.

The Opposition will have just a small number not adequate enough to have any serious impact on the debates. Its role will be limited to grabbing headlines for being bold on issues such as corruption and abuse of power. They will also present huge episodes of drama which will include heckling like school children, staging walkouts and getting physical once in a while.

Yet we are in frenzy. The EC chairman made a serious announcement last week. He said: ‘… to organise proper election the commission needs Shs518.9 billion!’ (Daily Monitor.)


The army has also put in its bill which allegedly includes Shs16 billion classified as ‘election security.’ The police and other security agencies are yet to present their bill. Apart from the violence, drama and pronouncements here and there the election of 2021 will not significantly change the political landscape of Uganda that much. It will be the usual staple diet whose consequence is to perpetuate NRMs hold onto power.

Granted that there will be fortunes to be made by those in the food and drink, printing, music, transport business. Advertising too will benefit, so will the media, plus owners of venues and those providing election gadgets like computerised equipment.

The citizen will get a T-shirt, beret, some money, alcohol, soap and salt from those in need of their vote.

But overall the money we are spending on this election is a huge loss in terms of opportunities (even with corruption) to the social wellbeing of the citizens of this country.

Just imagine what half a billion, would do if invested in schools, hospitals, agriculture and the provision of seed money to start ups and the unemployed youth. The fact that these things are so obvious to many of us yet we still get excited over elections just tells us some important things.

The African inherited these systems from the colonial masters wholesale without really digesting their significance and fashioning them to suit his own circumstance.For instance because we are so obsessed with ‘democracy’ we elect a plethora of leaders called councillors many of whose sum total of experience is slum life.

Then we shall expect those people to bring up ideas to develop and maintain modern cities. No wonder most of the debates are dominated by improving things like boda boda transport yet the boda boda is an anomaly which we should be fighting to eliminate altogether.

Secondly that the political class is one group of oligarchs irrespective of the side (government or opposition) they claim to champion. Most of them are in politics to make money. They claim and know that the election will not be free and fair and that the playing field is slanted but will fight tooth and nail to get into the mix falsely promising to ‘sort the dictator out’ this time round.

They are in it for money first and foremost. They are not the legendary mother goose that fends for its young ones. They are in politics as a business that will grant them dividends to pay school fees for their children. The government MPs perpetuate the system while the Opposition MPs are rewarded with huge entitlements for legitimising the fraud.

The donors; who are the real owners of these countries like Uganda where they have a huge financial stake and have a misguided entitlement to its natural resources like oil are interested in having a legitimately elected government. The quality of the election is secondary as long as it presents them with an entity with which they many negotiate terms and conditions to safeguard their interests.

The real challenge all this pauses is one that requires new thinking. How do we get leaders without going through this expensive charade of ‘free and fair elections?’

The truth is that is not written anywhere that leaders may come only from a system where everyman has a vote. The ancient pre-colonial Kingdoms reigned for hundreds of years without these sorts of elections and shambles that come with corruption, violence, wars and bitterness and people lived decent lives.

What we have now is a system where a political class uses the majority as a stepping stone in elections to fathom their own objectives.

With or without an election in 2021 Uganda will not change much save for spending a lot of money, time and resources to prove this point.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues.