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Recently, the Netherlands’ Institute For Multiparty Democracy sponsored an IPOD (Inter-Party Organization For Dialogue) workshop to discuss the 2011 Elections. The Opposition dwelt on the need to level the electoral ground while government insisted all was well!
I agree with the Opposition’s lamentations but recollect that all pre-2011 elections in Uganda were manipulated. We must, therefore, examine the genesis of electoral malpractices in Uganda rather than take them to be the problem per se!
Uganda’s first elections, held in 1961, were won by the Catholics’ dominated DP but an influential section of society cried foul, causing a repeat in 1962, to the satisfaction of the Anglo-Saxon-Protestant umpires, who I am sure, would have died before leaving the colony in Catholic hands!
Prior to independence, it had been agreed that in 1964, a referendum would be held in Bugangaizi and Buyaga, for residents in the two “lost-counties” to decide whether they wished to remain part of Buganda or go back to being part of Bunyoro, where they had belonged prior to colonialism. Since only residents of the two counties were going to vote in the referendum, Kabaka Mutesa of Buganda, set up residence in Ndaiga, a locality in Buyaga, the intention of which was to lure loyalists to follow him, settle there and vote in Buganda’s favour. Luganda songs were composed urging people to follow the Kabaka to Ndaiga. One such song ran “… tuvuge tugende, e Ndaiga Omutanda akuze….” Loosely translated, it urged motorists to follow the Kabaka to Ndaiga.
Buganda lost the vote and Kabaka Mutesa, who was also President of Uganda, was so understandably irked that he would not perform the President’s Constitutional obligation to endorse the referendum results.
If, like the Colonialists, DP leader Ben Kiwanuka and Buganda’s Kabaka Mutesa had power to enforce their preferred positions regarding 1961 elections and the 1964 referendum, respectively, Uganda’s history would read differently, today.
The 1962 Constitution provided for five-yearly elections, but President Obote called off the 1967 polls. His successor, Idi Amin, did not care for elections so we didn’t hold them in 1971 and 1976. The 1980 elections were held on the terms of Paulo Muwanga and UNLA, Head of State and the army, respectively. There were no elections in 1986 and 1991 because Museveni, President and Commander-in-Chief had things to do, first. The 1996 and 2001 elections were under the Movement System because Museveni thought that was best for Uganda. We all know about the 2006 and 2011 elections.
The moral in Uganda’s elections’ history is that ALL elections and referenda have been manipulated and who held state power has been a common factor in the manipulations. The logical action plan then should be to deal with that power, instead of focusing on transient mortals who misuse the power, but leave it in State House for the next transient!
Electoral malpractices is just one of several consequences, features and indicators – not the cause – of poor governance. We need to diagonize the causes, and if Uganda’s history is anything to go by, absolute power has a lot to do with the questionable electoral process, even during colonialism.
Uganda can smoothen her path to democracy by addressing the absolute-power-monster vested in the Central Government. That is what the USA, Canada, Australia, India, S. Africa, Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina, the United Arab Emirates and Kenya did, after gaining independence.
For peace, even Britain, architect of the centralized-power system abandoned it after pressure from Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Uganda must objectively examine the entire post-independence governance system instead of examining piece-meal frustrations such as electoral laws!
Beti Olive Namisango Kamya
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