May Ugandans vote in peace, pick their choice

What you need to know:

  • The campaigns have been chaotic as government officials enforced Covid-19 rules against public gatherings. 
  • The violence has prompted the government to deploy the military to take charge — hardly the environment in which one would expect a totally free and fair poll.

Ugandans go to the polls today to elect their next president from among 11 candidates, including the veteran leader, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who is seeking his sixth elected term.

The run-up to this election, which the incumbent is expected to win, extending his 34-year reign, has been marred by violence in which security forces have fatally shot 60 people in riots. Most of the casualties occurred in the capital, Kampala, as the police confronted youthful mobs supporting an opposition candidate.

Musician-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, better known by his stage name, Bobi Wine, who is a Kampala MP, has emerged as the biggest challenger to Mr Museveni.

The campaigns have been chaotic as government officials enforced Covid-19 rules against public gatherings. However, some observers saw this as an attempt at preventing the opposition candidate from reaching his hordes of supporters. The violence has prompted the government to deploy the military to take charge — hardly the environment in which one would expect a totally free and fair poll.

Heavy-handed measures

However, security is of paramount importance to ensure that criminal gangs do not take advantage of elections to cause mayhem. It is the cardinal duty and responsibility of the authorities to act firmly and prevent a breakdown of law and order. After all, should the country plunge into bloodshed, all will suffer the consequences.

Disturbing, though, are some heavy-handed measures, such as the suspension of internet services and social media platforms. The possibility of misuse notwithstanding, access to information is not just an inalienable right but it also enables the people to make the right informed decisions.

It is a pity that elections are increasingly becoming a dreadful occurrence in East Africa and elsewhere in the world. The irony is that it is still the best way the people can exercise their democratic right of directly choosing their leaders at all levels.

We wish Ugandans well and hope that peace will prevail during and after the elections.

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