The corrosive mentality of African leaders who think they are the only ones who can lead a nation is insidious. Over 80% of a country's population having lived shorter than the years a president has served in office is detrimental for democracy. While president Yoweri Museveni is celebrating his 7th term in office, the youth of Uganda are questioning whether their votes really count.
Enemy or Opposition?
President Museveni sees the opposition as enemies to Uganda and not people on the mission of leading Uganda into a better country.
Every year, Museveni utilises the police and army to arrest, shoot or kill the opposition leaders and their supporters. Museveni first ran for president in 1980 losing to former president, Milton Obote. Museveni and former president Yusufu Lule formed the National Resistance Movement (NRM), led by Museveni. The NRM army started and won a war against Obete's regime and Museveni was declared president in 1986.
This tells us four things about Museveni. First, it shows why he sees opposition as enemies and not as opposition leaders. According to him, to win an election is not about gaining people's trust and confidence but rather fighting the opposition. Second, it tells us Museveni has more confidence in the military than the people of Uganda. He does not believe in the power of votes but believes in the power of the army. Third, it tells us that Museveni will continue to rig elections if he loses. Last, Museveni believes he deserves a dividend of ultimate power for fighting the Idi Amin and Milton Obote regimes.
Museveni will continue to see the opposition as enemies and not as opposition leaders because for him to be in power in the first place, they were seen as the enemy and not the opposition. Opposition political parties were not allowed under the leadership of Museveni from 1986 till 2004. When they were allowed in 2005, they could not campaign peacefully or freely fundraise -- still today. The opposition is seen as enemies and not as opposition leaders.
A Culture of Rigging
When Museveni was re-elected in 2011 and 2016, the opposition and international observers believed there were some problems with the elections. Museveni has made it a culture to rig elections. Before the elections took place he knew that the internet gives people power to expose the rigging of elections and that is why he ordered for the internet to be shut down. He also knew by shutting down the internet, the opposition will not be able to campaign due to strict coronavirus regulations and because people exposed only to his leadership will have no choice but to vote for him.
It will be difficult to prove that elections have been rigged because of the power of Museveni over the opposition. During the 2021 elections, the police recorded 42 election related offenses which were voters being bribed, voters being assaulted, electoral material being destroyed and independent monitors being chased away.
Even though the police recorded these cases during the elections, it's going to be difficult for the opposition to prove that they are related to the rigging of elections. Besides the influence and power, there are a couple of reasons why rigged elections are difficult to prove. First, the level of corruption in Uganda makes it almost impossible to prove elections are rigged because even the judges are handpicked by the president. Second, there are way too many voting polls to control every move because the opposition does not have enough resources and capital to control the voting polls. Even if the police or army are used to control the polls, they are under the orders of the president. Third, the time given to prove elections are rigged and to have a re-election is way too little. Perfect examples are Kenya where the opposition was given 60 days and Malawi was given 120 days to prove elections were rigged. Even though the oppositions were successful and had a re-election in Kenya and Malawi, Museveni will do anything in his power to stop the re-election by arresting the opposition or by simply rigging the elections again.
Leg of His Law
It is well known that no one can run away from the arm of the law but Museveni has made himself the leg of the law by controlling the direction which the arm of the law goes. Museveni has consistently used the law to justify his ways in which he riggs elections.
First, after the 2006 elections, Museveni amended the constitution by terminating term limits. Second, he amended the constitution again by terminating the age limits for him to be able to run again for president in 2021. Museveni also abuses the law to distract the opposition from campaigning peacefully and fairly.
The leader of the opposition Forum For Democratic Change (FDC) has run for president four times. Museveni used the law to charge him with rape allegations. He spent most of the time in court. not campaigning.
Musuveni held Bobi Wine on house arrest claiming it was for Bobi Wine’s safety. He orders the arrests of opposition supporters for exercising their constitutional rights when they have peaceful protests. In the past he came up with a law called the Public Order Management Act, which requires that people, in order to have a political meeting of more than three people, ask permission from the Inspector-General. This gives Museveni power over the opposition because he will know what they are doing at all times.
For the years Museveni has been in power, he uses the law to push his agenda which is to remain in power. Bobi Wine, throughout his campaign, has used the constitution as his tool to fight the injustices of Museveni, but it is clear the opposition may need to go outside these borders.
This is the way the people of Zimbabwe removed Robert Mugabe. The sad reality is that Uganda is a military regime and an opposition fighting using a constitution has a lower probability of winning because Museveni believes in the power of the military and will continue to utilise the military to win elections. No president in Uganda gave up power peacefully nor gained power constitutionally and fairly.
God-like presidents care more about power than their own people. It will take more than a vote to fight the military regime of Uganda. Recalling the words of Patrice Lumumba, it’s clear that Museveni has overstayed his welcome, ''a good dancer knows when to leave the stage".