Uganda elections Feb 18, 2011: presidential candidates for the
by Joseph Ernest February 8, 2011
Newscast Media -- On Friday Feb.18, Uganda will be holding its presidential election, with a lot of speculation as to whether it will be a peaceful process. The three leading candidates are the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), Dr. Kizza Besigye of the Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) and Norbert Mao who represents the Democratic Party (DP).
There are indeed other players in the February 18, 2011 election, however, I will focus on these three candidates (Museveni, Besigye and Mao) who are the front runners in this year's presidential race. Below is a brief profile of Uganda that will familiarize the readers of this article with the country.
Full name: Republic of Uganda
Location: East Africa – Great Lakes Region
Population: 33.8 million (UN, 2010)
Area: 241,038 sq km (93,072 sq miles)
Major languages: English (official), Luganda, Swahili, various Bantu and Nilotic languages
Religion(s): Christian 85%, Muslim 12%, other 2%.
Currency: Uganda shilling (Ush)
Membership of international groupings/organizations: East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), African Union (AU), Commonwealth, United Nations (UN) – Non-permanent member of the Security Council 2009-10, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – Uganda held the chair 2003/5.
Frederick Mutesa II: October 9, 1963 - March 2, 1966.
Milton Obote: April 15, 1966 - January 25, 1971.
Idi Amin Dada: February 2, 1971 - April 13, 1979.
Yusuf Kironde Lule: April 13, 1979 - June 20, 1979
Godfrey Binaisa: June 20, 1979 - May 12, 1980.
Milton Obote: December 17, 1980 - July 27, 1985.
Yoweri Museveni: January 29, 1986 - Present
This year's battle for the State House has captured the attention of many local and international observers given what happened in Kenya, Zambia and Cote d’Ivore, when the election results were highly contested because there seemed to be no clear winner. In all three cases candidates of both parties declared themselves winners.
Dead folk voting:
Even before election day, reports of 140,000 dead people registered to vote, are troubling and raise concerns about whether this will be a fair election. It is not known to whose party the zombies belong, but Democracy Monitoring Group (DEMGroup) in Uganda has revealed that in addition to the dead voters, over 400,000 foreigners are registered to vote and 5,000 people over the age of 110 are also registered to vote. The entire findings are in The Daily Monitor. (pop-up)
The incumbent Museveni faces former opponent Kizza Besigye for the third time, and also a newer face representing the Democratic Party, Nobert Mao. Museveni's advantage is that he has name recognition and access to resources to sustain his campaign. Besigye has the advantage of having developed strong grassroots amongst the largest ethnic group in Uganda called the Baganda. Norbert Mao has the advantage of bringing a fresh outlook to Ugandan politics and strong support in the North.
Yoweri Museveni's challenges:
Having been in power for 25 years, Museveni will attempt to garner Ugandans' votes in order to stay in office for another five years. He faces several challenges, not only from his opponents, but also trying to convince voters that he is the right man to lead Uganda in this new decade. Museveni's toughest challenge lies in the central region – Buganda. The region is predominantly occupied by the Baganda people whose vote is absolutely necessary should any of the three expect to win. However, the tension between the kingdom of Buganda and Museveni's NRM government has been an impediment to Museveni and the way he is perceived by the Baganda.
Realizing how deep the rift between Buganda and his government had become, Museveni was prompted to write the King (Kabaka) of Buganda Ronald Mutebi a letter that yielded him an audience with His Majesty as reported by state-owned newspaper New Vision.(pop-up)
What Museveni may
be inadvertently overlooking, is that the people from
Buganda kingdom consider themselves Baganda first, then Ugandans second,
whereas non-Baganda consider themselves Ugandans first, then their ethnic
tribes second. The reason is because
Buganda as a kingdom, was a separate nation state before the British
arrived. The British conquered all
surrounding kingdoms except Buganda.
After realizing the difficulty they faced in conquering Buganda, the
British persuaded the Kabaka (King) to join the rest of the kingdoms and form
an amalgamation that would result into the birth of a nation now called
Uganda. The Baganda elders together
with the king voluntarily accepted the proposal.
If you were in Uganda and asked a non-Muganda: "Tell me about yourself," the person would say, "My name is so and so, I am a proud Ugandan from such and such a tribe." However, if you were to meet a Muganda and posed the same question, the person would answer, "My name is so and so, I am a proud Muganda from such and such a clan." Rather than identify themselves as Ugandans, they will identify themselves as Baganda. It is only when they are outside Uganda that Baganda identify themselves as Ugandans.
The pride of the Baganda people lies in the fact the Buganda kingdom, before it became part of Uganda, was one of only two nations (Liberia and Buganda) in Africa, that was never conquered. Even Ethiopia, was conquered on Oct. 3, 1935, when Italy invaded it. On June 1, 1936, the king of Italy, Vittorio Emannuelle III, was also made emperor of Ethiopia. It wasn't until 1941, during World War II, that British and South African forces conquered Ethiopia, restoring Haile Selassie back to his Emperorship. So even though King Mutesa I of Buganda voluntarily accepted British protectorate status in 1894, Buganda was never defeated or conquered by colonial armies, as a stand-alone nation state.
As a Psychology graduate, I have determined three necessary ingredients that are required before a voter can cast a vote for a candidate. These ingredients are universal and cross-cultural. The first element that is necessary is rapport. People have to get to know a candidate before determining whether the person is worthy of their vote. It's the reason candidates spend millions of dollars on ads trying to sell their image or message. The second element is the emotional connection.
Once voters get to know a candidate, they have to be able to connect with that person on an emotional level. They have to know that you feel their pain. This is the most important stage because it builds comfort which translates to trust. No matter how much name recognition one has, if voters distrust a candidate it is very hard for him or her to win over those voters. This is the stage where the goal of the candidate must be to win over the hearts of the people.
The last and final stage that is an after-effect of establishing an emotional connection is loyalty. After voters are familiar with a candidate and connect emotionally with that person, they will become loyal supporters of the same. With loyalty people open their checkbooks, offer to volunteer for the candidate by performing tasks like hanging posters, spreading the candidate's message through word of mouth, launching Web sites or blogs in support of the candidate, defending the candidate and recruiting other voters to vote for the candidate.
It is important for a candidate to get people to vote with their hearts, for when people vote with their hearts, they are literally "sold-out" to their candidates. Those who win over the hearts of the voters, win elections.
Museveni's challenge, particularly in the central Buganda region, is to overcome the emotional disconnect that exists. The Baganda have to feel that he relates to their needs, and is not just pandering to them. Buganda is Museveni's Achilles' heel.
Uganda by region
In the northern region, Museveni also faces the prospect of two other candidates (Norbert Mao and Dr. Olara Otunnu) who are northerners by descent, tapping into his voting pool, because the northern people who are Luo, may lean toward their fellow tribesmen out of loyalty. As for the western region, IPC candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye who hails from the West like Museveni, has heavily campaigned there as he seeks to claim a chunk of that western pie.
Kizza Besigye's challenges:
While IPC's Besigye may not have the resources Museveni has, he too has name recognition nationwide. In the West, he will have to work hard to put a big dent in the vote from Ankole region that is more likely to vote for Museveni. He doesn't need to dominate in the North because he seems to have stronghold in the Buganda region. Unlike Museveni's challenge that is an emotional disconnect the Baganda feel, Besigye's challenge is psychological. Besigye has mentally conditioned himself and his voters to believe that on February 18, there will be foul-play perpetrated by the government as reported by Daily Monitor newspaper in this recently published article.
The danger of being trapped into that state of mind is that the voters may not come out in large numbers, believing that Museveni is pre-destined to win, and their vote would simply be a waste of time. The article quotes Besigye as saying: "Dictators cannot be removed by free and fair elections." If he conditions his voters to think that way, it might eventually become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Besigye's task is to transcend the psychological impediment that seems to plague him, and instead motivate and boost the moral of his voters to show up in droves on election day.
Norbert Mao's challenges:
As for Democratic Party's Norbert Mao, he does have the advantage of being multi-ethnic and an effective communicator. He also is using social networks to mobilize and update his supporters. Being a northerner, Mao is guaranteed to dominate Acholiland. While Museveni has to deal with the emotional impediment, Besigye with a psychological one, Mao's challenge has to do with identity.
At the very beginning of the campaign Mao was dogged because of his last name. Many wondered how an African could have a Chinese name. Others who appear to have been Mao's former schoolmates claimed that Mao had named himself after one of Uganda's infamous presidents Milton Apollo Obote. Mao realized he had to contain this rumor because if he didn't, he would instantly lose the support of the Baganda tribe who have never forgiven Obote for ordering a military raid on Buganda's King Frederick Mutesa II that eventually caused him to seek exile in England in 1966 where he eventually died.
On his Facebook page on February 17, 2010, Mao responded by saying:
"I was amused when I found that the Obote bogeyman was being used against me. Some people have started a whispering campaign that my name MAO stands for Milton Apollo Obote! Yet in reality this is a clan name from the P'Mao clan of Pawel in Acholiland whose great great great grandfather was called Mao. I also have over a dozen other Acholi names given to me by my many relatives. But this is the nature of the game. But we shall not be cowed. Our counter attack will be lethal."
In a January 16, 2011, article published by the Uganda newspaper the Weekly Observer, Mao is quoted as having said that a certain professor told him that it was not yet time for Uganda to have a president from northern Uganda.
"You can allow them (people from northern Uganda) to guard you, drive you, take your children to school; you even marry them, but you can't allow them to be presidents," Mao quotes the professor.(pop-up)
Mao's challenge is to get voters to accept him regardless of his identity as a northerner. Rather than spend time defining himself or trying to fit in, Mao needs to place more emphasis on continuing to articulate his message, contained in his manifesto that he launched on January 14, 2011.
All Eyes On Uganda:
The international community has already sent its foot soldiers to Uganda to monitor the elections. On February 6, 2011, the Uganda Monitor newspaper reported that US Deputy Secretary James Steinberg and Ass. Secretary Johnnie Carson, were in Uganda to meet with presidential candidates and assess the situation. One might ask why the U.S. and the international community have a strong presence in Uganda. The reason is because, according to this report by the U.S. Agency For International Development (USAID) Uganda is receiving billions of dollars in foreign aid from the American people. (pop-up)
Part of that money is supposed to be used for Political Competition and Consensus Building as indicated in the report, and these coming elections fall into that category.
In a January 28, 2011, press release, the European Union said: "The European Union is deploying an Election Observation Mission (EOM) for the general elections in Uganda, scheduled to take place on 18 February 2011. Led by Edward Scicluna, Member of the European Parliament, the 110 EU observers will assess pre-election preparations and campaigning across the country, voting, counting and tabulation of the results on Election Day, as well as the post-election period."
Baroness Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said: "The forthcoming elections are important, not only for Uganda but also for the region. They are only the second multi-party elections to have taken place in Uganda since the National Resistance Movement came to power in 1986. The EU values the very good relations it has with Uganda. I strongly hope that the Ugandan people will be able to express themselves freely in these elections.
Under the Cotonou Agreement the EU has agreed to reserve for Uganda the substantial sum of Euros 439 million for the years 2008-2013. After the 2006 elections in Uganda, the Commonwealth Secretariat released a negative report saying: "There were some serious irregularities and significant shortcomings and there is scope for substantial improvement."
Kizza Besigye has said that he will tabulate his own results. Museveni says he will rely on results from the Electoral Commission, while the European Union announced that it will present its initial conclusions in Kampala a few days after the close of polls. The mission will remain in Uganda to prepare a comprehensive report, including recommendations for improvement to the electoral process, based on a thorough assessment of the entire election process.
It will be interesting to see whose results the Ugandan voters consider legitimate after February 18. Add or Read Comments>>
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