The 2011 Presidential Elections in Uganda have concluded relatively peacefully, with rolling results being announced over the course of the weekend. Incumbent President Museveni won handily, with 68-ish% of the vote (I add the “ish” because 117 polling stations did not return their results before the Sunday evening deadline).
The blogging community and, in fact, the entire country are fairly quiet at this point, breathing a sigh of relief that things went as calmly as they did despite widespread accusations of ballot stuffing, voter intimidation, and other irregularities. Things basically turned out the way everybody expected them to.
There are calls for protest, but they are only coming from the candidates who lost the election and not from the general populace. Steven Youngblood, a trainer in Peace and Electoral Journalism in Uganda, sees these as empty threats:
Two losing candidates, Olara Ottunu (1.6% of the vote) and Samuel Lubega (0.4%) today threatened to mobilize Egypt-style protests (AP). Seriously, these guys could barely muster 2% combined of the vote total, and they’re going to organize protests? Fantasy. The one opposition candidate with the most credibility to organize demonstrations, Kizza Besigye (2nd place, 26%), has complained that the election was corrupt and unfair, but has stopped short of calling for protests. The other losing candidate with some gravitas, Norbert Mao, is expected to make a statement Tuesday.
My Song from the Trenches also picks apart Kizza Besigye’s claims:
I[s it] just me who notices the inconsistency when Besigye says, on the one hand, that he won the election by vote count (“49%, 48%” or some such contrived ratio), and on the other hand that the NRM bribed and intimidated all his voters away, and stole all the votes?
Which is it? Did his voters get deterred from voting for him, but that nevertheless they voted for him, even though they did not (due to either reason he cites: bribery, intimidation, the works)? Please.
It’s not that people don’t think the elections were rigged. Uganda Picks quotes a DEMGroup report on the elections stating that:
* 139,541 people on the voters’ register are dead persons while 418,623 of the registered voters are foreigners.
According to the same report, 5,000 registered voters would be over 110 years old, remarkable in a country with a life expectancy of 52 years.
This NTV video also highlights an incident of vote buying:
The two most vocal losing candidates, Kizza Besigye and Norbert Mao, have both publicly rejected the results and are making some very provocative statements about their plans to contest the elections. Another Uganda Picks post quotes Besigye saying:
“This has been a well-planned electoral rigging that we have never seen before. These pre-ticked ballot papers were in many parts of the country. We have witnessed ghost voting, multiple voter register and falsification of the results from different polling station in a wide spread fashion.”
[Besigye] called upon the people to exercise their rights if the results were not as they expected. He also went on to note that dictators are not removed by free and fair elections and that Kayihura (Gen. Inspector of Police) did not have enough army men to prevent what happened in Egypt from happening in Uganda.
The peacefulness of these elections has allowed some bloggers to to look at the funny side of things. Urban Legend Kampala keeps things in perspective, with fictitious interviews:
Urban Legend: Mr Museveni, what plans do you have for this next term of yours?
Museveni: Well, generally speaking our vision is to consolidate the gains made so far by my government so far, to keep Uganda progressing on track, to discover and exploit even more ways to maximize our natural resources and to further cement the vice-grip I currently have on power until the point that not even Armageddon can unseat me.
Urban Legend: Good luck with that, sir.
…and photographic evidence that presidential candidate Olara Otunnu didn’t vote because he was too busy DJing at a club:
We had a candidate that did not show up to vote for himself. Or to vote for another candidate. Or to vote for anyone for that matter. Minutes after 5pm on polling day, we broke the news on his whereabouts here, on ULK, your number one source of hot information. Our reports showed that he was outside countries partying hard, celebrating his victory. Pictured here (in background).
The next test for Uganda will be the Mayoral Elections on Wednesday, 22 February. This election is expected to be more closely contested than the presidential election and, potentially, more tense within Kampala. At this time, though, police and army coverage is so heavy that it is unlikely that things will get out of hand.
Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala