Uganda holds presidential and parliamentary elections on February 18, in just over 7 weeks time. Can Ugandans have faith that the result will fairly and accurately reflect their preferences? It’s a question some candidates are asking and we’ll be coming back to it as the clock ticks down. We thought we’d begin by asking it at random on the streets of Kampala, the capital. The interviews were conducted on December 23.
We ran into Godfrey Bushubeho, 68, at a restaurant on Dewinton Street. He told us:
“So far we have seen the presidential candidates exercising freedom of association and enjoying the right to organise right from the onset of electoral process. Secondly, all the political actors of different political parties are enjoying access to the media without any bias. Many campaign rallies are attracting mammoth crowds but so far, most of them have been peaceful. To me these are good signs that the elections will be free and fair.”
Simon Munyalo, a civil servant in the land ministry, was confident the legal and institutional framework for election management was being followed to the letter.
“The voter education exercise by the Electoral Commission, the registration and display of the register as well as availing all presidential candidates with a copy of the register are testimonies to the free and fair elections that Ugandans should expect.”
Munyalo added that if all actors played their roles in compliance with the law and Commission remained neutral, “there should be no cause for alarm.”
Pamela Akongo, 28, who works with Uganda National Cultural Center, said:
“I love Uganda and pray that these elections come to a conclusion in a free and fair manner. I have seen that things are moving on well so far even in the areas of security, and the candidates themselves are so far exercising mature politics free of incitements and mud slinging. Even as more candidates enter the campaign arena for parliamentary and local council offices, we hope the sanity will be maintained. I have confidence that the different actors will work together to ensure free and fair elections.”
Fred Kaweesi Funampola mends shoes on Parliamentary Avenue. He’d seen reports of incidents like the recent fracas involving supporters of President Museveni and challenger Amama Mbabazi in Ntungamo. He believed nonetheless the elections themselves would be peaceful.
“My concern is that peace must be maintained so that we can continue working for our families. We are not going to eat politics. I have faith in our security agencies to maintain peace.”
Serena Mishanga, who runs a travel agency, agreed.
“So far I see a peaceful and transparent electoral management by the Electoral Commission and I hope this will go on to the end. However, in situations where the losers chose to incite chaos, I have faith in our security agencies to contain it.”
Edwin Mukalazi, locally renowned actor and producer, told us:
“I have noted that all the presidential candidates’ rallies are full of verve and each candidate is keen on passing on messages to the voters. Even other electoral process actors that include diverse groups – religious leaders, civil society groups, donors, musicians, comedians and ordinary Ugandans — are all following keenly what is going on. So far, I have not seen any antagonism that may lead to chaos or unfairness during elections. From my own observation, I think President Museveni still has an edge over his closest competitors. As for the free and fair elections, that remains to be seen come February.”
A young women who declined to give her name called the on electoral commission to maintain neutrality throughout the process.
“It is my hope that this elections concludes in a peaceful, free and fair manner. The key actors owe Uganda that wish by playing their different roles in a transparent, mature and chaos free manner”.
Finally, a Ugandan elder had this advice for his fellow citizens: