Uganda’s Elections Make Mockery of Democracy

Raymond Mungujakissa is a One Young World Ambassador from Uganda who 

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Elections in Africa are used to highlight and show the world just how fraudulent military regimes or incumbents are, not for the democratic voice of the electorate to be heard. Not that we would want it that way, but those in power just will not allow it to happen!

An electoral process is an alternative to violence and a means of achieving governance. Disregarding or disrespecting it certainly results in the other option – violence. It might not be the case now in Uganda, but it is not very far from happening. It did happen in Kenya and a number of West African states and it is happening in Burundi.

Democracy is the gateway to human rights and dignity, rule of law, tolerance and pluralism. But democracy and electoral process in Africa are a total mishmash and more than often lead to a skewed understanding of what democracy is or, to be specific, what free and fair elections are. Elections in Africa are quite often a misnomer of democracy.

With little benchmark. Cheer or jeer in Uganda, Yoweri Museveni will extend his 30-year rule with five more years. This follows his ‘win’ in the just-concluded elections. Those who closely followed the entire process, not just the balloting, will agree that it fell short of any democratic

Electoral conflicts emerge when the process is perceived to have been elitist, exclusive, unfair, unresponsive, corrupt and biased. Most elections in Africa, if not all, are characterised by a majority, if not all, of these attributes. It is made worse by injustices, inequalities, discrimination and frustrations by those in power, mostly the elite crass political class, to the poor majority. Uganda’s been no different, and certainly informs why Kizza Besigye and his party rejected the results.

To be fair, Museveni’s rule has brought stability and economic growth to Uganda. However, he has been criticised for becoming authoritarian and for his role in DR Congo, South Sudan and other Great Lakes region conflicts. His desire for a lifetime presidency has also been criticised. These were issues that, coming to this election, were put into focus, especially during the second presidential debate.

Museveni’s National Resistance Movement’s domination of the political landscape evidently distorted the fairness of the electoral process. State actors’ involvement and use of state machinery in campaigns and even during balloting created an intimidating atmosphere for both candidates and the voters.

The EU observer mission reported that intimidation and harassment of the opposition by police and law-enforcement agencies, as well as arrests of supporters and voters, were reported in more than 20 districts. Besigye was still under house arrest the day the presidential elections results were announced.

This is the worst abuse of an election. Such actions cast doubts on Uganda’s commitment to a transparent and credible electoral process, free from intimidation. Uganda’s police recruited more than 100,000 volunteer Crime Preventers, who were given paramilitary training to help control crowds, arrest suspects, guard ballot boxes and gather intelligence. Many openly say they are working for the incumbent.

Despite Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights providing that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Uganda Communication Commission blocked access to social media on Election Day. These platforms would have offered real-time information as tallying progressed.

Allegations of massive irregularities, intimidation during the pre-election period, voting delays, ballot stuffing, policemen going off with ballot boxes containing votes, among other electoral frauds and irregularities, point to one thing – the election was a shambles, a fraud, with a pre-determined winner, just like many other African elections. Democracy is on trial in Uganda.

Seeing the AU Observers report that the election was “largely peaceful” and President Uhuru Kenyatta and Paul kagame congratulating the ‘winner’ further points out how immature African democracy is.