Uganda Elections 2006: Lack of Violence Raises Concerns
FDC's Wafula Ogutu addressing a press conference at the party's offices in Kampala on Monday.

Uganda Elections 2006: Lack of Violence Raises Concerns

As the election date for Presidential and Parliamentary Elections draws closer, some people are wondering why there has not been major violence incidents during the ongoing campaigns. Many pundits predicted the current campaigns would be violent.

By John Isingoma
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First published: January 31, 2006

Today it is exactly 23 days to the February 23, 2006 Election Day and the campaigns seem to be generally going on well and peaceful.

However, some people especially in the opposition are wondering why the ruling National Resistance Movement Organization (NRM-O), which was accused of orchestrating violence in the 2001 elections, has not caused violence as yet.

Nation Media group Managing Editor in charge of Convergence and Syndication, Charles Onyango Obbo, says that given the history of NRM-O, it is surprising that more than a month into the Presidential campaigns there has not been any major violence, save for the arrest of Besigye and a few individual incidents where supporters of the different political parties fight or quarrel.

In 2001, there were many organized groups who beat up, maimed, and in some cases killed people in elections related incidents, especially the Kalangala Action Plan led by controversial Maj. Kakooza Mutale.

Onyango while appearing on Kfm Andrew Muwenda live talk show on Thursday said that the government could be employing non-violence as a strategy to dupe the electorate that all is well and that they are free to exercise their power to choose the leaders of their choice.

Many people say that in spite of lack of major violence, there is too much intimidation going on emanating from both the president and his ministers and the political aides.

Some people are quick to point at the display of military hardware and intimidating language as some of the replacement of the violence, which characterized the previous elections held under the movement regime before it became the NRM-O party.

However, other people suspect that the reason for a non-violence campaign period is due to the reduction in the support of NRM-O leaving it with fewer people who are willing to carryout violence. This has made the government to resort to underground methods of manipulating the election.

Johnson Mutumba a political analyst doubts whether the government can prolong the prevailing peaceful campaigns. He says that the massive support the leading opponent (Besigye) is enjoying will definitely force the government to embark on violence and increased intimidation.

Mutumbas prediction could come to pass especially with reports of loss of jobs and arrests of opposition supporters increasing each day that is passing by. Over the weekend, Ben Bogere a boba-boba rider in Mukono district was reportedly arrested for refusing an NRM T-shirt yet the motorcycle he rides was given to him on loan by the NRM government.

At the close of last week, another election related arrest was registered in Lira district of one Abdul Wambedi. Wambendi a driver with Lira hospital was arrested for being seen flashing a V-sign. The V-sign is known to be the campaign symbol for Forum for Democratic Change.

Apart from arrests and loss of employment of opposition supporters, there have also been reports of buying of voters cards from voters of places believed to be strongholds for opposition candidates. Such reports have so far come from Kawempe division in Kampala district and Entebbe in Wakiso district among other areas.

On Saturday, Maj. Kakooze Mutaale brought a halt to all activities in Soroti town when he marched with his KAP troops in Soroti campaigning for President Museveni and threatening anyone who thinks there is any other candidate worth supporting.

Over the weekend police released the first election violence report and put NRM ahead of all parties with over 80 cases followed by FDC with 24 cases and DP with only eight. Though all were minor violence acts, the police report seem to confirm Mutumbas fears that close to election day, parties will swing into action and shower us some violence.

The utterances by some top politicians has added more wonder to Ugandans who have been left with no option but to guess what exactly the ruling NRM is planning. Some analysts say that the government has changed strategy from open arrogance to underground plans to rig the elections or a combination of both.

Last week, Mughisa Mondo, an ardent campaigner of President Yoweri Museveni and NRM-O told a rally in Wakiso district that the NRM will not accept to lose an election. These are the same people in charge of organizing, counting and announcing the votes. The statement left many people worried that amidst all odds, the NRM were going to steal the election. This and other signals according to FDC spokesperson, Wafula Oguttu that the election is already rigged. Such an environment is likely to send many parties to use violent means to influence the outcome of the election.

If you ask many Ugandans right now, many will tell you about their worry that the campaigns and elections are going to be violent, especially given the strong contest between the two former colleagues, President Museveni of NRM-O and Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye. In the same vein, many Ugandans want a free and fair election, which is only possible if there is no violence and intimidation amongst the political parties and the electorate.

By John Isingoma
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First published: January 31, 2006
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John Isingoma is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. A social scientist by training, Isingoma is the Executive Secretary at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and after years training and practice in the media has become a dedicated writer and researcher.