Robert Kyagulanyi undeniably changed the rules of engagement in the 2020/21 electoral cycle. His modesty and purity of mind presented an unprecedented challenge in the Ugandan political arena. Looking back at Museveni in 1980, he had already been heavily involved in the political affairs of Uganda. He had served, albeit briefly, in government before his dissent to the 1980 election results and subsequent road to the bush.
All through Uganda’s brief post-independence history, never had a political contender been non-aligned and new to politics as Kyagulanyi has been. It is therefore not shocking that the political gurus and matadors had no counter-strategy to Kyagulanyi’ s puristic strategy – which was itself not a strategy. So, we were witnesses to NRM groping in the dark for solutions to the overwhelming influence of Kyagulanyi and his puritan approach.
We have seen yet again that the popularity of the candidate doesn’t determine the victor. Whereas it should, it simply doesn’t! The self-proclaimed free world and the oldest practitioners of modern democracy rely on an electoral system that, in a way, defeats the purpose of popular democracy. The United States electoral college represents the presidential choice of a certain class. Arguments may be made left or right, it is undeniable that at the end of the day, there is a certain class of people in the free world that cannot become president. I digress!
In practice, democracy is not a choice of the people; it is a government of the minor majority. Consider Uganda, a country with approximately 45M citizens. Of these, only 18M were registered to vote; this doesn’t amount to a simple majority. Understandably, among the 45M are children who are not eligible, inmates who are denied the opportunity – which, if I may say, is unconstitutional – the mentally encumbered and other groups that are excluded.
Simply, Tibahaburwa won the election with approximately 5M votes! In what sane world is this a majority of 45M. Do not misconstrue my submission; I do not argue that the result is a flaw of our electoral system – these are all well known – rather, this result is a reflection of a flaw in democracy.
In addition to this inadequacy, countries such as Uganda have other factors hindering proper representative government. I need not repeat them here; reports have been made over the same issues since 2001. However, the query is whether Uganda should continue its pretence!
The Electoral Commission reportedly excluded results from over 1,200 polling stations. The justification was that the incumbent president-elect had already obtained the necessary 51% of the vote and the numbers from the excluded polling stations could not change that fact. This has been reiterated in courts since the first presidential election petition under the 1995 Constitution.
Petitioners have presented numerous factors that affected the credibility of the result in all these petitions. I take the opportunity here to make reference to Daniel Kalinaki’s Kizza Besigye and Uganda’s Unfinished Revolution. In this work, it is stated that the Supreme Court was on the verge of nullifying the 2001 elections. The Justices, while in chambers, received a call from Rwakitura. The caller stated his knowledge of the intended direction of the Court regarding the election. He warned that a decision in that direction would keep him in the outskirts while the country dealt with any subsequent anarchy. The consequent of the call was that a 4:3 verdict to nullify turned into a 5:2 verdict to uphold the elections despite the discrepancies.
The learned Justices noted that although there were inconsistencies, they were not substantial enough to alter the elections result. The Supreme Court gave recommendations for curing the inconsistencies. Such became the precedent and practice; the highest court in the land would declare inconsistencies while overlooking them and issuing recommendations. It is unlikely, as we wait for the petition that will follow this election, that the result of the petition will be any different from those of 2016, 2011, 2006 and 2001!
Further, in the last cycle, social media was shutdown. This time, the government made a bolder move to shutdown the internet; and numerous businesses along with it. Many enjoyed a forceful holiday following a Covid19 forced break. Yet, there are no foreseeable consequences to this new and growing policy. The country stomached the financial implications of the first and will surely be complacent about this as well. It is only an evolutionary addition to Uganda’s many electoral policies.
I think that we can find feasible solutions to our political inequities after conceding that we lack democratic institutions proper. Uganda’s history bears all the signs; it is not a country built for popular democracy. One that has the army decides what’s best for the country. It has never been any other way. It does not matter if all eligible Ugandans were willing to vote, the goal posts can be moved to alter who is eligible.
This country is the motherland of dictatorial democracy; always has been! If we deny this truth, we are bound to keep hopeless hope to the ends of time!
- Joel Kenneth Ndawula is a Student of Law at Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi. He is an inspired writer, the editor and author here; a blogger of sorts.
- Featured2021.04.03Jordan, Mohan Saga; Of how Kiwanuka Becomes Responsible for the Gluttony and Greed displayed by Ssebuliba
- Business2021.02.02Wealth and Capital: Why many Ugandan businesses suffer stunted growths
- Featured2021.01.27Fool’s endeavour: What next for Kyagulanyi after monumental loss to Museveni
- 2021 Uganda Elections2021.01.20Verdict: Exclusion of 1200 reflects that Kyagulanyi was never winning the Presidential race