In March 2017, I was the recipient of a wildcard invite to a retreat of The Elders Forum of Uganda (TEFU) and the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) at Serena Resort outside Kampala. The retreat reviewed the 2016 elections.
During the discussions, one of the elders shocked me with the revelation that the 1958 and 1961 elections were violent.
The elder’s revelation was in response to someone who had said the only peaceful election Uganda has ever had was the 1961 election.
“Mine is a testimony of fact. I was a polling assistant in the 1958 and 1961 elections. In fact, the 1961 election was the first time human lives were lost (particularly in Buganda),” said the elder. My personal testimony is that all the elections I have witnessed in Uganda (from 1980 to date) have had some manifestations of violence in one way or the other. May be Ugandans are genetically disposition to election violence?
In August 2019, this column published a piece titled: ‘Ugandans don’t pretend; the 2021 polls won’t be worth your money and dignity.’ At the time, Bobi Wine’s sloganeering of Funa Endangamuntu was high; as Dr Kizza Besigye advised on mass action.
Gen Mugisha Muntu had just left FDC ‘…and forming The Alliance’. And Dr Abed Bwanika was at the centre of reconciliation in DP.
Dr Besigye offered a diagnostic piece of advice (with apparent scientific exactitude) that the only clinical medicine to get a better Uganda lay in Mr Museveni’s absence from the ballot paper in 2021.
I also suggested that the 2021 elections be postponed to 2025. And in the first quarter of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic offered the country the best justification for the postponement of the elections. Of course, the elections were not postponed. And Covid-19 is still here.
The election campaign was supposed to be done in a clever way by limiting mass contact. Wordsmiths called requirements scientific campaigns. But, the experience we have now is that it is impossible to manage numbers listening to political speeches.
In short, the idea of political rally as the main instrument of elections campaigns still holds. And then the expected run-ins between presidential candidates and the Uganda Police Force happened.
NUP presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi and FDC’s Patrick Oboi Amuriat were on Wednesday arrested in different parts of Uganda.
I have no interest in reading the charge sheet; neither am I interested in the violent manner in which the two candidates were arrested. It was a quintessentially Ugandan way of doing such things. Which is why I ask: Is this election worth our money and dignity?
The spectacle of a presidential candidate being arrested in a manner that Uganda police only knows, is a scandal. Yet the fact that there are presidential candidates that are not enabled by the State is worth the concern of the citizenry.
The importance of the presidency of this country is well known. It is so important that during election campaigns, the incumbent president is allowed some privileges (that are likely to advantage him or her over his or her challengers).
However, it is a material fact that in Uganda, one can only be president if he or she were a presidential candidate. So, if the presidency is so important, it goes without saying that a presidential candidate is very important.
That’s why presidential candidates should be facilitated with a minimum of “means of vehicular locomotion”. What kind of image does presidential candidate John Katumba walking give the national prestige of our country.
There may be some legal impediments but the Electoral Commission should have administrative leverage to facilitate presidential candidates.
Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of the East African Flagpost.