Uganda's Uncelebrated Elections Are another Landmark for Africa

The upheavals in the Middle East, Northern Africa and Ivory Coast have drowned out the peaceful election in Uganda. It is as if Uganda’s peaceful election is a commonplace event that does not deserve congratulations or more than a passing notice. The Ugandan opposition has tried to cry foul and to gain some attention, but they too have been largely ignored by the world and more importantly by the Ugandan people. Of course, Ugandans had already largely ignored the opposition by not voting for them in sufficient numbers.

Uganda’s peaceful election is actually of great significance to Africa and to the rest of the world for three major reasons: 
 

  • The protection and preservation of Ugandan lives throughout this election is certainly worth celebrating. 
       
  • The stability of Uganda has a calming influence on the delicate peace in the Great Lakes region of Africa – especially South Sudan, Eastern Congo (DRC) and Somalia. 
     
  • Progressive democracy in Uganda is vital both for domestic and regional stability and also for the rapid economic growth of the East African community, which is now set to benefit from Uganda’s oil wealth and intra-African trade.

Uganda’s reelection of President Museveni is based on the complex combination of the people’s fervent desire for peace and development. Despite continuing worries over corrupt politicians, Ugandans have decided that the alternative contenders for political power were unlikely to deliver a greater assurance of peace and prosperity than President Museveni.

It is of course true that there is still great poverty in Uganda. Ugandans know, however, that none of the political opponents are substantially better than the National Resistance Movement in the areas of security, education and service delivery – especially telecommunications, transport and financial services, which have advanced phenomenally in the past 10 years.

Ugandans are eagerly looking forward to the prospect of sharing in the oil revenues starting next year. When oil money is added to the environment of economic freedom, Ugandans can see that President Museveni is probably their best bet in this current complex and insecure environment.

There are some concerns regarding the transparency of the electoral process. However, the objections which have been raised may not stand up to strict scrutiny. Indeed, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), which is the strongest opposition party, scored numerous victories in this election as it did previous in elections and they accepted and celebrated those victories. They have not rejected any elections results where they have been victorious. However, they manage to complain and contest those elections where they have lost. This is like a football team that refuses to accept goals scored against them while insisting that the goals they score against their opponent should be counted.

As for the claims of cheating and other malpractices during this election, it is regrettable to say that all sides indulge in these activities in Uganda. There is voter bribing by candidates and their agents who go around distributing to voters money, sugar, salt and soap in exchange for votes. If the Forum for Democratic Change, the Uganda Peoples Congress or the Democratic Party claim their parties did not cheat in these ways and that only the National Resistance Movement did, few Ugandans will take these claims seriously. However, we must work hard to make the future elections in Uganda more transparent and fair.

As an underdeveloped country, Uganda has a long way to go to build the capacity to do things well. The country’s poor management goes far beyond elections. For example, in the health sector, there are high mortality rates for mothers during child birth, high infant mortality rates and high death rates related to mosquito bites. If Uganda cannot save the lives of its people from diseases that have a known cure, why does the opposition and other critics expect it can organize a perfect count of more than 8,000,000 votes scattered in 23,000 stations nationwide in the span of one or two days? One should remember that even some advanced countries have been known to experience problems in counting and tallying votes.

The enduring lesson of the National Resistance Movement is that we must continue to reject evil and injustice and in this painful process of rejection we shall make progress. Uganda has been through horrific and bloody times while fighting for freedom. From King Mwanga to Amin and to Kony, the blood of the martyrs of freedom fighters has paved the road that has led the country to where it is today. While the opposition party urged Ugandans to take to the streets and demonstrate, they did not see this peaceful election as a just cause to do so. Yet, no one should doubt Ugandans will take to the streets when evil and injustice oppress them. Resistance must and will continue against all forms of totalitarianism.

For now, this is the right time to congratulate Uganda on the great and rare feat for an African country to achieve such a peaceful election in which the winners and losers are so clearly demarcated. No Ugandan life should be lost because some good teams did not win. There is no football match where all the teams emerge as winners. We congratulate those who won and we also salute those who participated. We thank all participants because without them we would not have this democracy.