Uganda Elections: Candidates Battle For Votes In North, Long-Neglected By Museveni Regime

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Dr. Besigye addresses supporters

[Africa: Uganda Election 2016]

Ugandan ruler of 30 years Gen. Yoweri Museveni now claims it's the opposition candidates running against him who plan to rig the 2016 elections -- he's also making promises to every voter including schools girls who he says will be given free sanitary pads.

The Electoral Commission, headed by Badru Kiggundu, has been hand-picked by Gen. Museveni. 

Many political observers believe the general's time has come, pointing to both Kenya and Tanzania, neighboring East African countries that now have multi-party democracies with presidential term limits. Tanzania recently saw stable transition when Jakaya Kikwete handed over power to his successor President John Pombe Magufuli. In one of his final speeches Kikwete said no president needs more than 10 years.

Between 1986 to 1996 under Gen. Museveni, Uganda showed rapid Socio-economic transformations, service delivery and Universal Primary Education was introduced, levels of poverty reduced, access to safe water increased and media including Internet and mobile phone services expanded.

Yet from 1986 Museveni treated parts of Uganda north of Karuma Falls like a foreign country.

While Gen. Museveni was being praised as a "new breed" African leader, people in the northern part of Uganda suffered from the brutal war between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the National Resistance Army, later transformed into the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF). With mounting civilian deaths and suffering in government-controlled camps then UN Under-Secretary General Jan England in 2005 called the area the world's worst ignored humanitarian crises.

However Gen. Museveni was still able to mobilize global support from leaders like Bill Clinton of the U.S. and Tony Blair of the U.K.

In the last few years the Museveni regime slipped into regime survival mode.

Facing serious competition from presidential contenders, former prime minister Amama Mbabazi of the "Go Forward" campaign and Dr. Kizza Besigye, the FDC leader, Gen. Museveni has been making promises all over the country during his campaign. In addition to sanitary pads for female students he promises mathematical sets for all students; the latter was a proposal first made by Mbabazi.

Gen. Museveni castigated Mbabazi on his "Go forward" slogan claiming that his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party has been "going forward."

He also promised to pay all veterans of the UPDF, the national army, and Shs 1,000,000,000,000 or $297 million for the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) he also promised to pay all the UPDF veterans.

Dr. Besigye of the FDC says he will revive quality education system throughout the country, an increase in pay for teachers, and that he will restore land wrongfully stolen to their rightful owners, and review questionable taxes imposed by the government.

Mbabazi during his campaign is advocating the revival of Uganda Cooperative Society and Cooperative Banks; these institutions were abolished under Gen. Museveni's regime.

Mbabazi also said Gen. Museveni can't intimidate him with guns. “Museveni I know the guns more than you,” he said.  He said Uganda must have free and fair elections and political transition.

Mbabazi has also denied any role in the 2007 death of Brig. Noble Mayombo, a top official in the Defense Ministry.  There was speculation that he may have been poisoned -- an investigative report into his death was never made public. Mbabazi said the government should produce Mayombo's death certificate. He too has promised to halt "land grabbing." 

The fight for votes is tight in Western Uganda where all the main candidates --Besigye, Mbabazi, Museveni-- come from.  So votes in the northern part of the country is being intensely fought over.

Gen. Museveni is discussing an alliance with James Akena, who swore himself as president of the Uganda People's Congress (UPC) the party founded by his late father Milton Obote, whose government Gen. Museveni fought from 1980 to 1985. While campaigning in Lango region, Gen. Museveni castigated Dr. Olara Otunnu, who is the legal president of the UPC, and comes from Acholi.

Observers say Gen. Museveni is promoting a wedge between Langis and Acholis hoping his divide-and-rule approach will improve his chances to win more votes and divide opposition votes.

The North-Eastern part of Uganda is also considered an opposition stronghold.

 

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