Ugandan Election

Feb 21 2011

Ugandan Election

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Prior to the election on February 18, following the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, there were fears that the Ugandan presidential election would turn violent. Kizza Besigye, the non-incumbent candidate, threatened to instigate street protests if the electoral process was not fair. Luckily, these fears proved unfounded. Museveni won with 68% of the vote, though there are rumors that the elections were rigged and Besigye has said that

“it is clear the will of the people cannot be expressed through the electoral process in this kind of corrupt and repressive political environment.”

Besigye intends to “release his own results tally” from the polling stations and says that if they are different from the official figures his supporters will protest. Museveni has said that he will not allow an Egyptian-like revolution to take place in Uganda. He will arrest Besigye if his competitor tries to create chaos and will lock rioters in jail as humanely as possible.

Dr. Besigye rejected the official results and said he would consult with the opposition parties on his next steps. He did not call for protests, as he originally said he would. While it was a peaceful election, there were irregularities and accusations of corruption. The European Union’s election observer team said there were logistical failures due to the unacceptable number of disenfranchised citizens. Museveni received the majority of voters from the underdeveloped, rural parts of Uganda, while Besigye did well in Kampala, where the youth and Uganda’s elite live. This may be an indication of the future of Uganda. The city dwellers are more educated and updated on the current political situation and the platforms of the candidates. The future rests in the hands of the youth and the elite: if they support a different candidate now, rural citizens may be convinced in later years.

Museveni said that there should eventually be a transition of power, but that it cannot happen until he has finished developing the country. He is improving the economy of Uganda to bring it to a middle-income country within the next five years, and will not let Besigye or his supporters “mess up that plan.” It seems he believes he is the only president who can improve the economy. He has more faith in his personal abilities than in the system of government.

Despite allegations of massive bribes and threats in the elections, it is doubtful that Besigye will be able to spark widespread revolts like those taking place in other African countries. Uganda is a very different country from Egypt and Tunisia. It faces the constant threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which would take power at the first possible opportunity. An unstable or leaderless government would not be able to withstand Joseph Kony. The Ugandans do not struggle against the oppression of the government. They have far more rights than the Eyptians or Tunisians, such as freedom of press and religion. The improvements (particularly in the economy) Museveni has made over the last 25 years will prevent mass revolts.

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