Our Beacon Forum

Uganda had a double presidential inauguration
By:Hussein Lumumba Amin, Uganda
Date: Friday, 19 May 2017, 10:18 pm

Fellow citizens, Ladies and Gentlemen!

This week we quietly and unceremoniously passed the one year anniversary of the unprecedented occurrence where Uganda had a double presidential inauguration and battalions of soldiers on the streets countrywide to silence any corresponding dissent. Two separate ceremonies for two different individuals who each claimed to be the elected President of Uganda, complete with two different presiding justices both wearing white wigs and swearing-in each one of them separately, thereby kicking off what I might call "Kisanja Kabandole" in reference to the famous double deck bus. Since then we have one group of people going to State House Entebbe while another group visits "State House Kasangati" instead.

So allow me to also insist on one point that many of our politicians and their followers might deliberately prefer to turn a blind eye on.
I do not know what you as Ugandans think democracy is, but from existing research, experts assessments, and the experiences I've had in the few more meaningful democracies where I've lived and travelled, I concluded long ago that what you have here is not democracy. It is a dangerous comedy.
But maybe you all know that already right?

Since 1996 when I first voted at Kiyindi zone polling station in the Kawempe suburb of Kampala, there has not been any serious plan or meaningful effort to clear the country's elections of the ever increasing instances of electoral fraud. The very same malpractices continue as if that is now the normal tradition of how things are done in Uganda. In fact one can say there is even a sharp increase in the levels of electoral mediocrity. An sharp increase just like the price of sugar these days

In 2016 we reached the stage of having secret vote-tallying centers that fed data to the lawfully prescribed ones. What democracy is that? It is no different than the Communist view where Joseph Stalin famously said "it is not those that vote who decide the election but those who count the vote."
With this state of affairs, plus the increasingly repeated complaints regarding freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, state interference, plus the complete nationwide loss of trust in the credibility and transparency of Ugandan institutions and the presidential polls, how can any person stand proudly before the world and claim "I won. Ugandans elected me."

I won't get into the known details of vote rigging, police brutality and now rampant state orchestrated murders because they have all been documented and are being widely debated by an increasingly scared citizenry.

The reality is that there is a downward spiral, every election since 96 has been more fraudulent than the previous one, and the biggest culprit remains the presidential polls. Billions of shillings are also being wasted in by-elections caused mainly by fraudulent practices including poor vetting of academic qualifications. And in all instances, the Electoral Commission itself has been found to be conducting fraudulent polls.
Incidentally all the questionable presidential polls since 1996 have been "won" by the same "wonderful dictator".

What I fail completely to understand, and which in my view makes the political future of this country even more bleak, is that all the candidate's who stood in the 2016 general elections basically abandoned their own concerted effort to first fight for a clean election, and instead opted to join what they themselves had already proclaimed in advance that it was going to be "a rigged exercise." So what about the next one?

From my humble understanding, if there is one ultimate priority in democratic governance, isn't it to have clean, fair, and transparent polls?
So my fellow Ugandans! You better set your political priorities right. We clearly need more logic in determining the priorities of the governance systems that we say we subscribe to in this country.

Even common law for example does not differentiate between a matooke thief and the persons caught eating the matooke he stole.
They are considered accomplices. At the minimum, they were aiding and abetting the matooke theft.
Now I wonder what "poko-poko" the citizens will hear from them on this specific point?

Probably nothing much since our politicians and civil society unceremoniously abandoned in September 2015 the quest for free and fair polls in this country. Remember the campaign whose slogan read: "No reforms, no elections"?

Obviously this country actually needs truly principalled, steadfast, thoughtful and determined persons and institutions supported by wise, patriotic, and forward thinking people so as to instill a culture of globally acceptable performance standards in the country's activities.

I don't know where you will find such persons because those who have the chance today to do everything right, are continuously squandering their chance. One opportunity which is being surpassed at high speed is the duty to start, establish, and cement a strong culture and lasting tradition of peaceful, civilised and institutionalized presidential succession without which I suppose the spectre of conflict will always loom on this country. That is a truth that is being avoided in the discussion about the long term peace and stability of this country. Everything else is actually peripheral to that.
However, by deciding to run in the last 2016 polls, all the candidates basically displayed beyond any doubt that none of them was principalled enough to stand and fight for the utmost standards of electoral democracy first.

The Ugandan people might be forgiven for thinking that this time the leaders might have had something up their sleeves that would mean a radically different election in terms of its fairness. It turns out that the leaders were simply ready to knowingly join the electoral posturing. "The rigged elections" as they called it.

If that is their true ambition, how will they be able to really lead this entire country with its corrupt, thieving, opportunistic, tribalistic, political class and empoverished citizenry in a fair and righteous manner towards a free and prosperous tomorrow?
My fear is that at the critical point in time, most will clearly only remember themselves, and their personal ambitions. That usually translates to "clinging".
But my hope is that all persons who see themselves as Ugandan leaders, plus any new aspirants, including the Members of Parliament, let us all take the decision to stop fuelling democratic mediocrity.

Let us first redress/upgrade together what the entire country, it's judiciary, the region, the continent, the experts, and all overseas development partners know is wrong with Uganda's governance system, starting with the lack of fairness and pristine transparency in the country's elections, especially the presidential race, followed by the pressing necessity to establish real independent institutional governance whereby every public servant is a professional in their specific job and executes their duties exclusively based on terms of reference that abide by minimum international standards of impartial and accountable public service.

We need to start establishing truthfully what the Ugandan people decide, and we need to start abiding by the peoples true choices.
Isn't that the most critical point in democracy? The simplest way for establishing durable peace and security, plus guaranteeing the most favorable environment for economic growth? Possibly the best way to deleting permanently any future political unrest? And thus securing for the long term the lives and property of ourselves, every citizen, and every guest and investor in this country?

All efforts to avoid addressing this matter merely amounts to eloquent linguistically-enhanced myopia that can be equated to intellectualized political monkeyism.

This country really needs prayers. Prayers to the Almighty that the evil behind the torture of Ugandans by security agencies stops. Prayers that the evil behind the stealing of the people's elections stops, that the evil behind the rampant unscrupulous theft of public funds stops. That the evil behind the mistreatment of political opponents stops. That the evil behind the current spate of mysterious murders stops. That the evil behind the politics of greed and envy stops. That the evil behind the current mass massacre of citizens stops. That the evil behind the self-appropriation of the country's natural resources stops. That the evil behind the tribalism and nepotism in appointments in public service stops. That the evil behind the prevailing inflation and economic collapse stops. That the evil behind abuse of office stops. That the evil behind selfish unpatriotic authoritianism stops. That the evil behind clinging to power stops.

I pray that Uganda turns the page to a new era where the voice of the people truly counts. Where leaders become the people's servants again. Where religions thrive without political prejudice or selective persecution. I pray that we do not see any tribe being targeted, killed or marginalized, and I pray we do not see any genocides or mass killings ever again in Uganda. I pray that every Ugandan child has a chance to a good education and a bright future. I pray that Ugandan mother's and all women have access to life-saving medical attention. That all men and women get the best opportunities that will improve their lives and that of their children. That the elderly benefit from their pensions and minimum meaningful care from their loved ones. And that the disabled will get more practical support to help them cope and surmount the barriers that make life less equitable for them. I pray that the new generation of Ugandans rejects the politics of hatred and demonization that has plagued our country and led it from one civil conflict to another in two decades of conflict. I pray that the principles of justice and human rights find their true meaning in governance and in all our communities around the country. I pray that political succession is not left to become a new opportunity for a frenzy of greed that results in death and destruction. I pray that every Ugandan regains their determination to see that what is right prevails, and I pray that every Ugandan regains their faith and hope in a just and fair future.
This, God Almighty, is my prayer today for this country.

By Hussein Lumumba Amin
Friday, 19/05/2016