Finally it is over – the long-awaited Presidential and Parliamentary elections have come and gone and in many ways released a bit of the anticipation and excitement that had gripped the country as Uganda counted down to election day, February 18, 2016.
By Mary Karooro Okurut
Finally it is over - the long-awaited Presidential and Parliamentary elections have come and gone and in many ways released a bit of the anticipation and excitement that had gripped the country as Uganda counted down to election day, February 18, 2016.
And as many people - including your Columnist - had predicted, the real debate was always, not whether or not President Museveni and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) would carry the day, but by what margin they'd win.
And after a grueling last few months on the campaign trail, a 61% plus win for the President and an even bigger margin for the parliamentary race in favour of NRM (still calculating the exact details) is a fair return on the time and energy invested in traversing the countryside, looking for votes. The next five years, therefore, can now officially begin, as the President and ruling party prepare to implement the NRM Manifesto, the basis on which the voters made their choice.
But also, as this Column had ever so keenly foretold, the opposition is already doing what it does best - crying foul after every election! Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential flagbearer Dr. Kizza Besigye is once again trying to cause chaos just because Ugandan citizens have not voted him into power.
The television images that have been coming forth in the last couple of days, showing skirmishes in a few places (orchestrated by the opposition) do not in any way flatter or give due credit to what is otherwise a decent and commendable democratisation process. These skirmishes are the culmination of what was pre-planned; that as soon as the President is announced winner, there would be first, the usual "We wuz robbed!" (Black American English expression) allegations, then followed by a systematic campaign of violence in the hope that the winners find it hard to run the country and specifically to make the city of Kampala ungovernable. Dr. Besigye - a man who seems to think chaos is the best way to resolve governance issues - premised his Election 2016 campaign on ‘defiance', apparently in every form thereof and he is living to his billing quite literally by inciting the public to defy the outcome of a perfectly legitimate election.
Ugandans must interrogate the issues at play very critically, so as to understand the true nature of some of the leaders in the opposition. It is okay to oppose the Government; that is what democracy is all about. But legitimate voicing of dissent and disagreement as part of the democratic process must be distinguished from unlawful interference with the running of the country through wreaking havoc with impunity.
In the first place, Dr. Besigye publicly declared - more than five years ago - that he'd never participate in elections as long as there were no electoral reforms, starting with a brand new Electoral Commission. As we all know, the EC was not disbanded. Apparently he saw an opportunity where he could fulfill his scheme of boycotting elections….that is, in The Democratic Alliance (TDA).
There is credible information that he wanted to be the TDA presidential flagbearer (thereby hoping that there would be only two candidates - himself and President Museveni). Then on the eve of elections or somewhere along the way he would say there was no level playing field, boycott the election ….and resort to causing mayhem. What disorganised that plan in part was the entry of former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi into the TDA equation….further complicated by the failure of TDA to agree on a joint candidate. At that point Dr. Besigye knew that if he said he was withdrawing it would not help his agenda because there would be other candidates. He is now claiming that he went into this election knowing that it would not be free and fair and that he only went into it to expose the flaws within the system. So if he says he went in knowing that he would not win, why is he saying he has been cheated? And what happened to his Power 10, which was supposed to prevent rigging?
People should also know that all presidential candidates were given seats at the Tallying Centre at Namboole Stadium. The President sent the Secretary General of the NRM; other candidates also sent representatives, but Dr. Besigye said he wanted to go there himself and not just alone, but with a crowd! You don't have to work hard to see the mischief intended there! It is all tied up with the plan of defiance, thinking that they could bring the kind of chaos we have seen in other countries - particularly the Arab Spring of 2011: march to the EC with about half a million people, pitch camp there and cause chaos.
This election was not rigged.
There are basics that we should not ignore - a man who has been at the helm for three decades, has performed exceedingly well and the citizens have learnt to lay all their hope and trust in him, is hard to beat. Of course we have always said that not everything has been done - we have also had our challenges and shortcomings in service delivery, where there is room for improvement. But as the President keeps on reminding us, even the Lord Himself did not create the world in one day; which is why we talk about "steady progress".
It appears people have distinguished the issues in the political spectrum. They know where they want change - as evidenced by the various changes in parliamentary representatives. But there is a firm unanimity in the fact that they do not want to see any change at the top. They know the importance of having a strong leader who delivers; they bask in the stability they have enjoyed for three decades and as long he is available, they are not just unwilling to invest in another leader, but they are also fearful (after the doldrums of the 1966-1986 period) to take chances. It should not be forgotten that between 1966 and 1986 Uganda had rapidly deteriorated into a failed state which could not supply public goods, whose systems were not working and where the state turned on the citizens, disallowing basic human freedoms, killing many of the dissidents and generally plundering national resources with impunity.
So the success of President Museveni is a product of both fear and favour; fear because people look back at where they are coming from and shudder at the possibility of relapse thereunto and favour, because throughout the 30 years he has enjoyed the favour of the people - the majority do love and trust him.
And further, as I have pointed out before, all the opinion polls in 2015 and 2016 consistently showed that the President would win - putting him at various times between 51 and 71 percent. None of them ever showed him going below the constitutional minimum of 50% plus one.
Going deeper, when you look at the voting pattern, all the leading parties - the NRM inclusive - are mourning in equal measure, given that they have each lost some political giants. The NRM may have won another comfortable majority back to Parliament, but they have suffered huge blows given the number of bigwigs that have not made it back to the House. You cannot have a rigged plebiscite in which one quoter of the cabinet has been wiped out - unless you are saying that it is not the ruling party that carried out the rigging.
In Election 2011, 18 ministers (both senior and state ministers) lost their seats. In 2016 an almost similar number have lost their seats. If the ruling party was rigging the electoral process, the first people to benefit from such a scenario (apart from the President) would definitely be the ministers! If they too are suffering casualties, then you can be sure that any rigging going on cannot have been orchestrated by Government. It's sheer logic!
When people are trying to incite violence - especially at a time when kids are going back to school - you know they are itching to see bloodshed and mayhem so that the country can get engulfed in flames. And to this dangerous agenda, every peace-loving Ugandan should say no!
The writer is the Minister for Security, the spokesperson of the National Resistance Movement Party and Woman Member of Parliament for Bushenyi District