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Uganda election: Exciting start, what next?

October 27, 2010


If the potential success of an election could be judged by the excitement generated by its first day of campaigning, then Uganda is set for an excellent poll.

It can’t, of course, but it was heartening to see both ruling party and opposition supporters whooping it around capital Kampala yesterday ahead of a February 18th voting day that most think will be nothing but a foregone conclusion.

Thousands of screaming, singing, stomping supporters danced through town from the Nelson Mandela Stadium where the presidential candidates received their nomination papers to the sites of a couple of huge political rallies.

Hundreds more hurtled about the place on the “boda boda” motorcycles that ferry paying passengers around the city, revving the engines loudly in support.

Such was the excitement that the Reuters team had trouble battling through the crowds of people supporting opposition leader, Kizza Besigye.

Here’s a small snapshot of what we saw out the window:

Besigye is going up against long-serving President Yoweri Museveni for the third time in a row but only has, most analysts say, an outside chance of winning.

Museveni’s party, the National Resistance Movement, says that is because they have shepherded Uganda through solid growth since coming to power in 1986 and that they will continue to do so during its emergence as an oil producer.

But Besigye’s supporters, members of the Inter Party Cooperation alliance of four parties, say that, even if they do win most votes, they fear a bout of rigging.

Besigye, Museveni’s former personal doctor, said yesterday that neither the 2001, nor 2006 polls were fair.

In the afternoon, the supporters of the two biggest parties, poured off the streets and into the venues for the rallies, which were more like massive concerts.

Museveni’s crowd, shaded Besigye’s but, when one person saw how many were at the IPC event, he said to me: “Maybe Museveni will get a run for his money.”

So does the fact that so many got out on the streets and attended the rallies signal he may indeed get that run for his money? Or were both sets of supporters just party loyalists unaware, or ignoring, the fact that many Ugandans fear the foregone conclusion?


With the excitement bellowing into the streets it’s easy to get caught up in the commotion, but it’s important that the we realize that this election is more than just a political exercise in democracy.
I’ve noticed the international news has been closely following Besigye, and while it is easier for the west to understand a two party system it is important to keep in mind that there are 8 candidates and the political parties and platforms which divide them may divide opposition support just enough for Museveni to narrowly maintain his control. (This is of course assuming that Museveni doesn’t rig the elections which seems to be his business as usual policy.)

Posted by lauraware | Report as abusive

Ugandans are excited about the forthcoming presidential elections but they are also very worried about the violence that is likely to follow the campaigns and the outcome.
Most ordinary Ugandans know that their votes do not matter in presidential elections, so they will go along with whoever gives them money. Therefore, the large crowds you see, especially those associated with the incumbent, President Museveni, are there because of the lure of money and not because they want Yoweri Museveni to continue as president.
Most Ugandans know or believe that the elections have already been rigged in favor of the president even before the campaigning starts.

Posted by Matyich | Report as abusive

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