Monday, 28 March 2016

You Say Easter, I Say Election Update!

It’s been a little over a month now since the National election in Uganda. It’s hard to believe, really. In the weeks that have followed this event, I have been fortunate enough to have had many in-depth conversations about the results and the future of the country. Throughout many of these conversations, I've noticed that three interesting points/thoughts have surfaced.

When you’re in a race, you expect to win… so you contest when you lose
The above statement is a view I hadn't previously thought of before, but there's a lot of truth behind it. In any competition, be it a political race, some form of athleticism, musical showcase, or any other of the long list of like-events, one usually goes in with a mindset or desire to win. Sure, we can enter competitions to compete against ourselves, our own personal bests, or perhaps a smaller group within a much larger field of competitors, but generally, I don't believe people compete without thinking about earning the top spot. And, sure, it sometimes doesn't feel so great when we end up not securing that winning position, but it shouldn't stop us from trying again or being proud of our accomplishments.

What I have never thought of, however, is the outcome of a political race - or more specifically losing in a political race. This alternative idea of expectation vs. reality expressed in one of these conversations really had me thinking. It makes a lot of sense, too. If you are confident that you are going to take that lead position, why wouldn't you be dumbfounded when the results say otherwise?! The person I had this very conversation with, argued that when the leaders of one of the political parties came to town, everyone gave that party's hand gesture*, signifying that they were in support of said party. Now, to be fair, it would be a little naïve for the leader of one of these parties to assume their popularity solely based on a citizen's ability to maneuver their fingers in a particular form. However, it is understandable to see how they could assume they'd had this same group's vote.

But imagine - you're travelling the country, meeting ordinary people, and they're giving you the signal that says you're their choice. You become more and more confident that the win is yours. Election day comes and goes, and when the results are announced, your name is not presented. You had been assured by the very people who'd participated by casting their votes that you - and only you - would be the chief-in-command. So, you look for answers.

This scenario is completely plausible. What makes it less so, however, are the numerous accusations and reports that has followed this election. I do believe, that the statement made in that conversation has a good degree of validity. I do not believe, that in this particular case, it is true. Yes, both Besigye and Mbabazi sought the position of President with confidence, and believed they had a shot at winning. Yes, I'm certain they were both disappointed that they did not win. But, I cannot believe that the only reason they are questioning the finally tally is out of poor sportsmanship. It just doesn't make sense here - especially since this isn't he first time the validity of a Ugandan National election has been called into question.

When is it time for the opposition leader to step-down?
One point that continues to be thrown around is the idea that Museveni has been in power for too long. I myself have made that comment… on multiple occasions. But, as I became more and more involved in post-election discussions, I began to ponder the future of the opposition parties – particularly the leadership of Kizza Besigye.

I can no longer tell you if Besigye is still under some form of house arrest or detainment, because a) the papers have stopped reporting it, b) I’ve lost track, and c) I’ve simply just stopped looking. But, what I can tell you is that he’s been the leader of the FDC for nearly half of Museveni’s reign. I’m not saying that I don’t believe in Besigye’s capabilities as a leader, or his potential as a president. What I’m saying is, if those who are against Museveni’s lengthy reign are also in favour of Besyge’s leadership, isn’t that contradictory? I mean, one of the (many) arguments against the current president, is that he doesn’t have any new ideas and that it’s time for new blood**, so to speak. So, couldn’t the same be true for Besiyge? When is it time to accept one’s time is finished and look for a new, fresh face? Don’t get me wrong; the allegations against the validity of the democratic process here in Uganda over the last several elections might have prevented the opposition from winning. However, is Besigye’s presidency more important to the people of Uganda and the FDC party, or the removal of the current head-of-state and the instalment of new leadership?

I don’t have the correct answer here - or even an answer, for that matter. I’m only trying to work through this idea myself.

Over-hype or cover up?
In the lead up to Uganda’s latest presidential election there were warnings and threats that violence would ensue no matter the outcome. These potential negative events were made by multiple parties, including the continuing leader, President Museveni, opposition leaders and the people themselves. It appeared that day after day a new threat would surface – if the current president wins, we the people will protest in the streets; if I, the President, shall lose, I will send “my military” to show I’m in charge; and so on and so forth. The build up of fear resulted in supermarket shelves being emptied, and an increased presence of both police and military.

As an expat, I was receiving messages from the Canadian Consulate in Kampala in both SMS and email form, telling us to avoid crowds, bulk up on food and stay inside. And in addition, friends from within and near the country were telling me to take a short vacation to neighbouring Kenya. Yet, election day came and went. Social media was shut down. There were times when internet connectivity and phone lines were off and on. Helicopters flew overhead. And, of course, the main opposition was arrested and detained... multiple times.

But, reports of mass rioting and violence seemed absent from the media outlets covering the election. The threats and predictions of people taking to the streets pending the outcome that inevitably came to pass appeared not to exist. So what happened? Was I being over-prepared or is there a much deeper situation taking place that we aren't being told?! I'm not trying to spark a conspiracy, or infer falsehoods of the real situation here in Uganda, but once again, trying to understand what has actually taken place. 


So, while I don't have any real update on the election, other than to tell you the process of assessing the validity of the outcome is underway, I hope, at the very least, that I've been able to make you think. And, not just about the Ugandan context, but to how each of these three points/thoughts/consideration might apply to other situations. 

As I leave you now, please allow me to wish you all a Happy Easter, and a special shout-out to Myrtle (my grandmother), who is celebrating her xxth birthday today! Happy birthday, Grammy!

(Photo credit: Mike Kennedy)
-the Orange Canadian

*Museveni is associated with the thumbs up, Besigye the peace sign, and Mbabazi the finger gun (classy, sir!). 
**Not actual blood…

No comments:

Post a Comment