Uganda Elections 2011: The Presidential Candidates - Early Predictions
The absence of arrests of opposition leaders, interrupting of opposition rallies and confrontations of mostly opposition supporters with police has surprised, as it has pleased, many.
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First published: February 17, 2011
After what has been described as the most peaceful campaigns that started in November 2010, many Ugandans are cautiously awaiting the polls and results of the country’s second multiparty election that begins on Friday February 18th with the 2011 Presidential and parliamentary polls. It is not that the first multiparty elections in 2006 were very violent. The absence of arrests of opposition leaders, interrupting of opposition rallies and confrontations of mostly opposition supporters with police has surprised, as it has pleased, many.
Like in 2006 and before, while Ugandans will be voting for President and members of Parliament on Friday, District leaders on February 23rd and lower local council leaders early March, it is the results of the presidential poll that is most eagerly awaited.
The 2011 Uganda elections have attracted a record 8 Presidential candidates from seven political parties and one Independent candidate. All the Presidential Candidates have been on the campaign trail marketing their manifestos to Ugandans and have dispelled earlier assertions that some of them, seen as weak, will pull out of the campaigns that like in 2006 were expected to majorly be between incumbent Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement and Dr. Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change. Below we profile the candidates based on their manifesto promises, impact in campaigns and their political fortunes come voting day on Friday 18th February 2011.
The 2011 Presidential Candidates:
- Samuel Walter Mukaaku Lubega
- Beti Olive Kamya Namisango Turwomwe
- Nobert Mao
- Dr. Kizza Besigye Warren Kifefe
- Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
- Dr. Abed Bwanika
- Olara Otunu
- Jabel Bidandi Ssali
Samuel Walter Mukaaku Lubega
Samuel Walter Mukaaku Lubega, 43, who describes himself as "an ardent federalist and unshakable member of the Democratic Party", stood as an Independent after losing the DP Presidential flag bearer battle to Nobert Mao. Lubega surprised many by raising the required 1,000 signatures from at least one third of Uganda’s 112 districts to get nominated for the presidential race. But that has been as much as we have heard Lubega in the campaigns as he held few rallies and had very few posters that even many people in the Kampala are still wondering who this 8th Presidential candidate is.
But Lubega who has been promising to grant federalism and attract more development support to improve social services defended his scant presence saying he had a different strategy of campaigning house to house. But with each Presidential candidate allocated one day to campaign in each district, such a strategy, if it was real, did little to show a serious side of Lubega that many Ugandans would have hoped for. It must be sad for even his most ardent supporter that few people knew his campaign slogan of “Be part of the change Uganda can trust”- a slogan that could have probably attracted support if well marketed. One can comfortably say thanks for trying, but Mr. Lubega is a pure outsider in the race and will surely come last.
Beti Olive Kamya Namisango Turwomwe
Unlike Lubega, Beti Olive Kamya Namisango Turwomwe has used all the things that make her a unique candidate to convince many Ugandans (including those that will not vote for her) that she is serious. Kamya who is the flag bearer of the Uganda Federal Alliance has vigorously marketed her move to change the country from a unitary system of government that she says concentrates all resources at the center and introduce a federal system of governance that she says will enable equitable development as regions maintain most of their resources and allocate them as they best deem fit.
She has also been keen to remind people she is the only female Presidential candidate in the race, and promising to deliver motherly leadership that is equitable and not exploitative. She has even rubbed in the fact that she is a widow and promised widows, especially in northern Uganda where a 20 years plus war took many men, that she will have programs and policies that benefit widows, orphans and the most vulnerable.
No one doubted her marketing skills as she had already done well in marketing reform Agenda, Forum for Democratic Change (from where she defected to form her own party), and earlier marketing experience at Uganda Wildlife Education center where she was Executive Director (1999-2004) and Marketing manager at Uganda Breweries before that. But her acrimonious fall out with the FDC after she failed to get elected party Chairperson, and the fact that she is running what some call a “one issue campaign” (federalism) must have dented her presidential bid.
Even sickness had its toll on her, as she was literally picked from presidential campaigns to Kampala International Hospital where she was operated before she returned to the campaign trail. Whatever the results of the presidential elections, many will keep admiring her courage to bid for the top office, going through the campaigns and aspiring to be a president with less power as her federalism promise would give distinct authority for states to self govern on agreed upon areas. For those supporting her, few of them even remember that Kamya, the Rubaga North MP is among the 70 MPs who lost their seats due to changing political party affiliation following a constitutional court ruling. This is a middle candidate. Impressive but not a big impact. Will come or 4th.
The other Presidential candidate that has held his own on the first bid to become CEO of Uganda is DP’s Nobert Mao, fondly called the Obama of Uganda by his supporters. Mao, 43, is the youngest of the eight contenders for Uganda President and has been using this to his advantage asking the majority youth to vote for a leader “born after Uganda’s 1962 independence” in order to bring about change in governance.
He has also used the fact that his mother is a Munyankole from south western Uganda and his father an Acholi as one factor that makes him an ideal candidate to bring unity and harmony in a country Mao says has been fracture by sectarianism and divide-and-rule politics. He also says he has a high chance of getting the northern Uganda vote, which has traditionally supported the opposition. With a good track record as a political leader while Gulu Member of Parliament and Gulu district LC5 Chairman, Mao has credible testimonials of his abilities at public affairs management. But the failure to unite his fractured DP with some members of the party like Mukono North MP Betty Nambooze and Kapala Central MP Elias Lukwago openly campaigning for Forum for Democratic Change Candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye, it might be hard to gain enough trust that he can unite the country if he cannot unite one party.
Though Mao believes he will be second to Museveni, that chance is highly unlikely but it is agreeable he already performed well to be among the four leading contenders. Our prediction is that best Mao can do is to come 3rd.
Dr. Kizza Besigye Warren Kifefe
FDC’s Dr. Kizza Besigye Warren Kifefe who is also representing the Interparty Coalition has once again enjoyed widespread crowd support throughout his campaigns on his 3rd at the top office. The retired colonel has led a spirited campaign for “Change is coming” and has almost been swearing how he is defeating President Museveni this time round. Besigye who has claimed he lost the previous elections in 2006 and 2011 due to rigging by the NRM says his party has invested in ensuring no one rigs. But despite his good promises of more accountable leadership and better service delivery, many still view him as a Museveni competitor than an alternative politician.
Besigye, a bush war veteran and former personal doctor of President Museveni, parted ways with his former ally after what he called irreversible digression by the NRM of the 10 point programme that they had set out to accomplish for the country. He sure has done a lot to show the ills of the government, but with no one arresting him or connecting him to court cases as they did in 2006 campaigns where he was facing treason and rape charges that were both quashed by Court much later, it is not clear whether he has won more support presenting issues than he did as a victim of the current government in past elections. Besigye, a no doubt credible contender, is facing the most challenging candidature of his career as he must prove that he is more than just a serial contender. As in the past two elections, Besigye is coming out of the campaigns with the best opposition chance as victory, but there is no evidence he has done better than NRM’s Museveni. The 2nd position might be his best and worst.
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
NRM’s flag bearer Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has continued to be overbearing and even without the controversial opinion polls that have given him a 64-65% victory, it has been clear that he is the man to beat. Not just that he an incumbent and enjoys advantages of being the reigning president, but Museveni has over his 25 year rule made several achievements that many people want him to continue. While there is no doubt about his autocratic and domineering tendencies, the man is a darling to many that work with him, and many people in the countryside will insist he is the only capable man. Of course he is the only one that has had a chance at the presidency for the past 25 years. He is promising more prosperity and transforming the country from 3rd world. If his reduction on donor aid to 30% in the past term is anything to go by, many must have been convinced he can do even better especially with Uganda set to start oil production during the next two years. Even with impressive economic figures though, many Ugandans still live in poverty while his government has maintained Uganda a comfortable seat in the most corrupt countries in the world.
Like other leaders who have stayed long in power, instances of nepotism, big administration expenditures, abuse of state resources are key issues cited against Museveni. But the man his supporters have given all kinds of names has survived all nature of criticisms to maintain a commendable global and local reputation as a trusted and serious leader, a key point he has tried to emphasize during the 2011 campaigns where he says him and his party are the only one’s with a vision and capable of leading Uganda to prosperity. The polls will decide how many agree with him. Even if you don’t agree with his supporters who are already celebrating victory with a Kiwede ("its finished" or "we have already won") concert, the man seems set to give Ugandans another rap for five years. However much it pains some people, Museveni is still the favourite to win the elections when Electoral Commission Chairman Dr. Badru Kiggundu announces the results on February 20th.
Dr. Abed Bwanika
Dr. Abed Bwanika the President of the People’s Development party is making his second try at becoming Uganda President, and truth be told, the 2011 campaigns have shown that promising and idea-driven Bwanika that enchanted many in 2006. Bwanika has appeared in the press more, while threatening to quit the race for police harassment, that his manifesto which most independents will agree is the best. Bwanika’s promises of creating more jobs, re-invigorating the agriculture sector and streamlining public expenditure among others continue to excite many issues-conscious Ugandans. But he has little political weight as his party is not known for much political activity or influential individuals as do say NRM, FDC or DP. He will do well by coming 5th.
Uganda People’s Congress flag bearer Ambassador Olara Otunu while making his first bid at becoming Uganda President is the only one, other than Museveni representing a party, that has ever ruled Uganda. He therefore has a big basis on which to ask Ugandans to be trusted as he has what to show people his government can do. He says UPC has a better plan for Uganda from infrastructure to service delivery and business. The former UN Under Secretary for Children however leads a much leaner party than his predecessors, and it is not clear if he has worked enough to garner more support for his party or himself, having been out of the country for most of his adult life. Despite his impressive credentials, Otunu’s campaign has been a shadow of the real contenders, and he will likely come 6th.
Jabel Bidandi Ssali
Jabel Bidandi Ssali of the People’s Progressive Party is a veteran politician who broke away from NRM to form his own party after opposing President Museveni’s bid to change the constitution by lifting the two term limit so he one can run for Uganda President for as many times. Bidandi says he is the best candidate because of his advanced age and trust he says he enjoys amongst all political camps. He says he can end what he calls current divisive policies so the country can heal and focus on development. He is promising better leadership and accountability. He has had a rather limited impact on the campaign trail with the major positive being he has no single enemy. But that hardly wins you votes, and in Bidandi’s case, not even your son’s vote, as Bebe Cool, one of his sons has publicly declared he supports NRM’s Museveni. While that might be taken as a simple issue especially given that Bebe Cool got help from Museveni for his treatment abroad, there is no Bidandi factor to talk of in the current politics. But probably there is and the results of the polls to be announced by 6pm Sunday will do the final judgment. As for us, it hurts to say Mzee Bidandi will come 7th or there about.
Note should be taken that the positions to the candidates are predictions and the real performance of the different presidential candidates will be announced by Dr. Kiggundu on Sunday.
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First published: February 17, 2011
Gerald Rulekere is a Journalist and member of Ultimate Media Consult. He has written and published extensively on business and gender issues and been writing for Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd for the last two years. A professional and graduate journalist, Rulekere is always looking for an opportunity to better his writing especially for international media.