UGANDA: CAN HISTORY REPEAT ITS SELF AFTER FRIDAY ELECTION?
In four days' time, Ugandans of all voting age will be going to the polls. Although foreign nationals from; America, Rwanda, Sudan and others living and working in Kampala participate in general elections of their respective countries, the Ugandans living in the Diaspora can't vote yet they remit huge sums of money to boost the country's economy.
On Friday, February 18, the country's highest office and over 300 seats of Members of Parliament will be up for contest, yet the generous contribution of approximately 800,000 Ugandan expatriates who make a generous contribution to the country's annual budget and economy, they will not take part in elections and have no right to request for accountability. According to the Executive Director, David Kihangire of research at bank of Uganda, export items are the main source of gain at $ 3 bn, per year; tagged along side with foreign aid and remittances by the country's expatriates that contribute nearly the same amount.
However, in spite of their enormous contributions to the country, they have not been given the right to participate in the election process of their country. Previous calls by Ugandans living abroad to participate in the country's affairs including voting during elections have met with solid resistance. Their requests have always been rubbished and several petitions have never been attended to. Worries now fill hearts of hard-earned investments that could be destroyed during this election process as signs of election violence veer towards the situations in Kenya, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Egypt and now Algeria.
Two of the Country's previous general elections were decided by the Supreme Court. On both occasions the Court concurred with the complainant that the elections were marred by irregularities, but the judges did not annul the results because they couldn't measure the substance. President Museveni, who has been in power for the last 25 years, has been serving the last five years as president at the mercy of the Supreme Court since three out of the seven judges had suggested that results be invalidated but four deemed that the abnormalities did not 'substantially' shape the election results. During an interview with a local radio station KFM's 'Hot seat' hosted by Charles Mwangushya in February last year, the retired judge of the Supreme Court, Justice George Kanyeihamba during the talk show in February last told the audience while referring to the 2006 presidential election petition that “I didn't say it should have been nullified. I nullified it. If you recall, the seven judges, including the Chief Justice, were unanimous in finding that on the whole the election was not conducted in a fair and free manner; that there had been intimidation, there had been vote stuffing, and all that. . . ”
The bench of seven justices also concurred with the petitioners that the announcement of the election results was not in accordance with the Presidential Elections Act and that the EC failed to nullify results in the same areas that were marred by malpractices as was required by law. The Court further noted that there was bribery, vote stuffing, multiple voting and intimidation in different parts of the country as well as disenfranchisement of voters by deleting their names from the register without their (the voters) consent. Justice Odoki in particular pointed out that the involvement or presence of the security forces in the election process actually intimidated the voters.
Unlike in the two previous elections where the Supreme Court ruled that the elections were marred by malpractices, the country has never been informed by an independent body that the 1980 elections were also marred with “widespread rigging”. After the overthrow of Idi Amin's regime in 1979, the new governments of Prof. Yusuf Kironde Lule and QC Geoffrey Lukongwa Binaisa were both ousted by the Military Council. The Military Council then instituted an Electoral Commission with the Chairperson K.M.S. Kikira, Secretary Vincent Sekkono, and Commissioners Egweu S, Kera Bilali and Matovu ultimately conducted the elections.
This became a focus because the rigging allegations turned into the genesis of the Luweero atrocities that culminated after the December 10th 1980 elections which were blessed by the Commonwealth.
Recently, NRM mark the 25th anniversary since it waged a rebellion on a democratically elected government, as per the 1980 Commonwealth report on Uganda's elections. We all know that 1980 elections sparked off the history of 1980s Luweero Triangle and then the northern Uganda conflict. All these situations have been a result of alleged election rigging at the time. If the Commonwealth hadn't endorsed the 1980 re-election, there wouldn't have been that kind of bloodshed. The Commonwealth noted that the 1980 elections were free and fairly won by Uganda People's Congress (UPC) even though the Democratic Party (DP) contested against the 1980 election results. The report is the only credible and undisputed evidence we have to prove that the 1980 elections were free and fair and all other allegations of rigging we have heard are based on rumours.
We shouldn't forget that DP, presumed to have won the elections in the eyes of many Ugandans, played a mature game by joining the government as main opposition in Parliament. They (the DP) deliberately kept quiet and buried their heads in the sand because they genuinely knew that UPC had trounced them badly and feared to inform their supporters. Perhaps, that is the widely known reason why they opted to join UPC. The UPM that won just a single seat in Kasese by Dr. Cryspus Kiyonga thought that waging a rebellion which consumed human lives in their thousands, was the answer. Ugandans and the Baganda in Luweero in particular who were directly involved or affected when they unreservedly supported the 1981-86 rebellion should look at what the Commonwealth wrote just after the elections. The report provided a sweet-sounding melody backing the 1980 general election results.
Both previous presidential elections in Uganda have been characterized by local courts as having fallen short of the required standards. Are the peasants benefiting from these elections which are funded by donors in the name of creating democratization? One wonders why donors continue to fund workshops, trainings, civic education yet the elections will be rigged anyway. After pondering onto several paragraphs of the 1980 Commonwealth reports this can help the people to reshape their opinions and perhaps the West who want Africans to remain in this kind of vicious cycle of violence that normally result from election rigging. The 1980 Commonwealth report on Uganda's elections meant that, they would condemn the rebellion but they didn't. If the elections were not condemned by the Commonwealth, then it was free and fair.
Previous Africa's election results, situations and violence witnessed in a number of countries such as; Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Egypt and now in Algeria can be avoided if leaders respect the will of the voters. Fear now already seized in the hearts of voters because of well known characteristics army generals who have already shown side and warn to clash or shoot and kill those protesting against the rigged elections.
The World now watches that the incumbent who is backed by the army generals has seen five of British Prime Ministers and American Presidents come and go.
Meseveni seized power after a five-year bloody war when Margaret Thatcher was prime Minister. Then John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, they have all left No. 10, Downing Street and now David Cameron. Whilst on the other side Ronald Reagan was President. Then George H. W. Bush (Senior), Bill Clinton, George W. Bush they have also left the White House and now President Barack Obama. They have each presided a government that supplements Uganda's annual budget, in search for good governance and a corrupt free country.
Ugandan generals should know people's rights are embedded in several of the UN Conventions of which Uganda is a signatory. That freedom belongs to every person in the world and that it is every person to participate in free election is an absolute right.
Message to Ugandan generals: In the UK's criminal justice, Section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, allows ordinary citizens to arrest a person suspected of committing a crime. Ugandans will at one time seek to exercise that lawful power when the generals visit the UK.
Because under Section 134 of Criminal Justice Act 1988, authorises the prosecution in Britain of any person who commits an act of torture anywhere in the world, as defined in the UN Convention Against Torture 1984, which Britain has ratified and pledged to enforce.
Also in America; the 'Alien Tort Claims Acts of USA', can catch up with those generals. American courts have begun adjudicating civil liability for human rights violations (especially torture) committed in another country, under the Alien Tort Claims Act (28 U.S.C. §1350) and the Torture Victim Prevention Act (28 U.S.C. §1350).
Retired Supreme Court Judge, Prof. George Kanyeihamba, who was among the judges voted to annul the rigged election in 2001, and 2006 but were overruled. He now criticices civil socity organisation for not protesting enough against injustice and he urges everyone to stand up and be counted in the Friday elections in Uganda.
Guerrilla leader, Yoweri Museveni talks to the then innocent Child Soldiers to fight Milton Obote's government in the early 1980s.
A woman cast her vote, but many now are gripped with fears that the generals backing Museveni, this time they may cause myhem among those protesting vote rigging. (All courtesy photos).