“FATIGUE AND APATHY” IN UGANDA 2016 POLLS: MUSEVENI MAY SCOOP “ANOTHER RAP” IN THE FEBUARY 18, POLL.

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Mr. “FEATURE PRESIDENT” is too young to vote in 2016 Ugandan elections, but is old enough to be recruited into Museveni’s the million militia known simply as “Crime Preventers”. Is this rigging strategy?

Apathy: “The worst punishment which should be meted on people, who don’t want to participate in elections in Africa, is to be ruled ruthlessly; like slaves”- Media trainer.

The people of Amuru district in Northern Uganda went for a by-election in February 2014 to find a replacement of the Woman Member of Parliament, Ms. Betty Oyella Bigombe a.k.a Atuku. Ms. Bigombe resigned from her seat in the Ninth Parliament of Uganda to take up an International job with the United Nations’ Headquarters in New York.

Amuru district has a total of 65,917 registered voters, but only 16,051 people turned out to vote in that November poll. This represents only 24.4% (percent) of the total registered voters. That means a total of 49,866 voters did not show up at the polling stations to vote for the candidate of their choice. This is a whopping 75.6% majority vote wasted.

According to the National Resistance Movement Organization (NRM-O) chairman of Amuru, Mr. Juma p’Labongo, Amuru district boasts of over 50,000 registered NRM-O members. If all the 50,000 registered NRM members of Amuru had turned up to vote for the NRM-O candidate that day, their candidate who got only 6,701 votes would have easily won the race.

In that by-election, Ms. Alello Lucy of the Forum for Democratic Change, also the joint opposition candidate won the race by getting 7,420 votes. This is 48.4% of total vote cast. Her closest rival, Ms. Amongin Jane Frances Okili, of the ruling NRM-O party, got 6,701 votes, which is 43.7% of people who voted. Three other contestants, Ms. Aber Caroline, Ms. Achan Poline, Ms. Adokorach Susan Abwot and invalid votes shared the rest of the 1,221 votes counted representing 8%.

In October 2015, the ruling National Resistance Movement Organization (NRM-O) party conducted primary elections throughout the country, to identify their flag-bearers for the various elective positions ahead of February 2016 general elections.

In Gulu district with 68,324 registered NRM-O party members out of the about 180,000 people who registered in the National Identity Card project, and from which Voters’ Register will be compiled by the Independent Electoral Commission, only 30,508 turned up to vote that day. Suppose NRM-O will finally have 100,000 members in the final voters’ register of the Independent Electoral Commission will turn up to vote for incumbent President Museveni, It means parliamentary candidates like Mr. Norbert Mao of The Democratic Alliance (TDA), will be in trouble.  In this primary party election, only 44.65% of the registered NRM-O party members of Gulu district participated in the primary. Why did the rest not vote? This question will be answered later in this article.

The numbers of people who actually participate in voting activities, in Uganda have been on the decline since the 9th May 1996 when General Museveni subjected himself to an election for the first time, ten years after assuming leadership in Uganda in January 1986.

In that 1996 election, which was organized under the Movement system when General Museveni was still popular and people were excited for voting after a long break, majority of voters turned up to vote, 72% of registered voters turned up to vote. This is good turn up since majority turned up to vote.Statistics of subsequent elections show sharp and steady decline in voter participation: In 2001 when multiparty was introduced, 70.3% participated, in 2006 69% turned up to vote but in 2011 election, only 59% of registered voters in Uganda actually turned up to vote.The last general election, before Museveni came to power, which election was organized under President Paul Muwanga on 10th and 11th December 1980, Museveni’s party (Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM)) got one seat in Parliament out of 126 Members of Parliament elected.Throughout his campaign then, candidate Museveni vowed he would go to the bush if Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) party of Dr. Apollo Milton Obote won although it was obvious that Dr. Obote would bounce back to leadership since his party was most popular and well organized than the rest.   

 

In the February 18, 2016 poll, there are a total of eight Presidential candidates who are contesting for that one slot. For General Museveni, this will be his fifth consecutive elective term if he wins. In reality, this will be his seventh term in office since his first ten-year term in office was not counted because there was no election.

Other aspirants include three-time loser, Dr. Kizza Besigye, former Museveni right-hand man, former Secretary General/Prime Minister Mr. John Patrick Amama-Mbabazi, Dr. Venansius Baryamureeba, Dr. Abed Bwanika, Mr. Benon Biraro, Mr. Joseph Mabirizi and Ms. Maureen Kalya Walube. The only female contestant in next year’s presidential election, Ms. Walube was just eleven years old when Museveni took over power in 1986 and therefore has not experienced life under a different president except she knows only Museveni rule. 

According to a young voter in Gulu district, identified only as Grace, the first time she voted was “out of excitement” for being legible to vote. Today she says she will only vote in the first cycle of election on 18th February 2016 to choose a President and Members of Parliament.

“I will only vote for President and Members of Parliament, which I consider to be most important election. I don’t vote for the other cycles of election because I don’t consider them important since they make no change for me”, she says

There are two types of voters who want genuine change in leadership in Uganda, but have been disillusioned to the extent that they have taken different paths in the election. The first group which includes people like the former Democratic Party (DP) candidate for Omoro County parliamentary seat in 2011, Mr. Stephen Odong-Latek, who has decided to join the NRM-O “bus” to try to cause change from within. The second are those who actually form majority and which could wield much power to cause change if they voted, are those who feel that they would be wasting their votes to vote for a candidate of their choice since they believe Museveni will win at all costs.

The Gulu district NRM-O Administrative Secretary Mr. George Obola Ebola, says that there are four reasons why the poor turn up for the NRM-O primary elections except for the election of village chairmen on 4th September 2015.

“The first election, the turn up was “very good” when we were electing village chairmen. You know that this is rainy season and people are very busy on their fields cultivating. There was this problem of postponing elections, which affected the results. Our turn up was fifty percent because of poor mobilization while the final voters’ register will have lesser voters because of the clean-up exercise by the Independent Electoral Commission”.

 The Catholic Bishops of Uganda released a pastoral letter a few days ago on the 2016 general elections in Uganda, and “Apathy” is one of the issues of concern they raised.

“It is likely that, unless something drastic is done, the situation could be worse in 2016. The result might be leaders emerging without endorsement of a large section of the voting population- a serious threat to leadership credibility, accountability and democratic maturation”, says the bishops’ letter.

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