Elections are part of the periodic events for Uganda after every five years and this is stated in the constitution of the land.
The practice of attaining office leadership through polls in the country can be traced to pre-independence period, when the British colonialists made a statute allowing Ugandans to take part in indigenous polls starting with the legislative council (LEGCO) which was a path to Uganda’s independence in 1962. And the country has now witnessed a series of election with the latest being the 2016 elections.
Elections have left the organizers in Uganda not trusted by those wanting to come into power accusing them of not being independent while executing their duties by allowing to keep a blind eye on mass electoral irregularities mainly by the party in power.
The December 10th and 11th 1980 elections which saw CP, DP, UPM and UPC participate opened a can of worms forcing the party (UPM) with the least votes take up arms to over throw the then military government of Obote on grounds that the elections were fraudulent.
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s UPM which spent five years in the bush fighting got into power in 1986 with cardinal principals to reorganize the country’s leadership which they in the first place did and having clean elections was part of the principals through full blown democracy.
Speaking to some of the senior citizens who witnessed the elections in the 80s and now, seem not to see a big difference between the 80s and current elections where as others can see some difference.
Dr. Kepher Ssempaji a renowned Ugandan of good heart and a longtime member of the NRM formerly UPM notes that there is a slim difference.
Ssempanji states that in the 80s, elections were a process full of fear as the military was fully engaged in certain processes which is now not at the same degree.
He adds that while in the 80s elections had few participating groups of people, now the youth, women, entrepreneurs, elderly, disabled among others take part and the exercise and this has increased the number of representation in parliament which was not the case in the 80s. Wearing a smile, Dr. Ssempaji says this is a bonus.
With the society being dynamic now, the systems are still controlled by the president who appoints the commission chairman just like it was in the past. Adding that now the systems are also dealing with more electoral cases compared to the 80s where it used to deal with very few electoral cases and this can be attributed to low interest and vigilance of the citizens.
Meanwhile, David Alira the secretary general of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) led by Hon. Jabeli Bidandi Saali looks at the elections today and the 1980s to be having different organization circumstances but in practice the reason that took president Museveni to the bush have been recreated by himself.
“Today when you look at the manner in which elections are organized, it is a shum. Whereas Museveni at the time did not agree with the manner in which elections were organized which forced him and his friends move to the bush to topple the then government.”
Today when you look at the circumstances under which the elections are organized its more less the same and here he mentions the disenfranchisement of political players who don’t find a level playing field makes it the same. At the time president Museveni and team blamed the government of Mr. Obote and 1980 election for being militarized, rigged and no fair playing grounds, denial of freedom to reach out to electorates and this can be witnessed in the elections organized by the NRM led by Museveni. Says Alira.
He further says, declaration is most times a formality as the whole polling exercise as it was in the 80s and this to Alira calls for changing the constitution to trim the powers of the president and empower government institution to work independently so as to build citizens’ confidence.
Since the first elections by the colonial government in 1961 to date, Uganda has held over 10 elections and referendum which have impacted positively and negatively to the growth of the country.
However, both recognize that there are some changes registered by the current regime in the organization of the whole exercise ranging from material used, environment under which citizens’ votes and time taken to declare the results among others