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Stop threats of violence, talk free and fair elections

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Violence in an election at any stage be it before, during or after the election period can undoubtedly lead to real havoc in a country.

As Uganda heads for the polls in a few weeks, various cases of violence around the country have been seen, however the biggest portion is imminent and just a wide speculation.

At this stage of the electoral season, both the government and opposition sides are thumping chests, each side proclaiming its readiness to deal with any dirty tricks the rival side plays.

Under such circumstances, several security and party leaders and other senior officials have come up to make ‘violence sound relevant’ by issuing threatening remarks to voters.

President Museveni, a man who has led Uganda for the last 30 years made it clear on his campaign trail in Ntungamo that he will not leave power because ‘all he planted has just started bearing fruit’.

His former bush war doctor and now four time challenger for the presidential seat, Dr Kizza Besigye is carrying out a campaign he has dubbed  the ‘’campaign of defiance’, which message is being effectively received by many of his supporters countrywide, the youth being at the forefront. He assures his supporters that this time, his vote will be protected. He tells them to rise against dictatorship and oppression.

Meanwhile, his party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has embarked on recruiting 10 people per village under their P10 strategy. These people are said to be the ones to guard Besigyes vote, something the security agencies like the Uganda Police say is a hidden agenda to mobilize the youth into committing violent atrocities after the elections on February 18.

Similarly, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, the erstwhile Ugandan Premier, who is also running against his former boss for the presidency, said while addressing the press in Mbale that vote rigging could lead to a coup. Since then he has persistently asked his supporters to go and vote, remain at the polling centres until the votes are counted and tallied. To cap his message, Mr Mbabazi says his supporters should leave the rest to him to handle in Kampala, a place he says, the manipulation of results takes place on the computers. And, as if to counter Mbabazi’ assertion, Mr Museveni accused the opposition of planning to rig the elections.

While passing out Crime Preventers in Kapchorwa sometime last month, the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, was quoted by media to have said he is going to give them guns and relieve them of the sticks they wield. He reportedly said the government was not ready to hand over power to the opposition. However, after pressure from media and diplomats, the IGP denied making the remarks, saying he was misquoted.

Also, of recent police has been recruiting and training ‘crime preventers’ all over the country to help man the 2016 elections. This has sparked off a lot of criticisms from the opposition and foreign governments and authorities, with many of them calling for the disbandment of the new recruits. However, the IGP wont hear of that, instead maintaining that the ‘crime preventers’ are useful for forestalling electoral violence.

About 3500 new police trainees have been deployed in Kampala on top of the 36000 Special Police Constables (SPCs) whose recruitment is ongoing.

As if expecting violence, the police has also procured armored vehicles, ready to engage impending protestors after the elections.

The UPDF Chief of Defence Forces was not left out; General Edward Katumba Wamala said that the army is ready to ‘deal’ with those who will refuse the election results.

To some Ugandans the remarks by the CDF were perceived as a threat, a move to coerce them to accept rigged elections.

Justin Kasule Lumumba, the Secretary General of the National Resistance Movement, the party in power is on record for having publically announced that the state was going to ‘kill youth’ who will turn up in Kampala and Wakiso to demonstrate.

Her assertions were echoed by the Jinja Deputy Resident District Commissioner (DRDC) Mr Eric Ssakwa, who clearly warned to shoot anyone who would come out to protest election results.

Threats like this from people who hold high offices in government cannot be taken lightly, and unfortunately, leave a bitter taste, with voters debating as to whether the election is going to be free and fair.

On the side of the opposition, anecdotal reports and accusations are circulating that the opposition is actually mobilizing young people to head to the streets of Kampala after the elections. Throughout his campaign of defiance, Dr Besigye has been rallying Ugandans to wake up and help him ‘give a final push to the now shaking tree, whose branches have already been cut’. He has often told supporters ‘this is not an election where you go and drop your ballot paper and wait for Mr Kiggundu to announce the right winner’.

Four star General, David Sejusa has also weighed in, repeatedly saying dictators (a title he gave Museveni of recent) are not seen off peacefully but by force.

Meanwhile, social media has been awash with numerous threats by young people of how they are willing to face anything that will come in their way as they plan to send ‘Dictator Museveni back to his ranch’.

As a result, one Saava Kitonsa of The Uganda Youth Platform was recently arrested when he posted pictures of young people holding pangas. He captioned the posting with rants on how they were ready to face and arrest Brigadier Muhoozi (Kainerugaba), General Kale Kayihura  and President Museveni, among others on ‘his list’.

But a word of caution and advice: Uganda as a country has a history and a future that we collectively need to protect. Both government and opposition should unselfishly put our country first before their personal desires.

Talk of ‘we shall make sure we have peaceful elections’ should replace the one of ‘we shall crush whoever challenges election results’.

Indeed, we should consider free and fair elections; every peace loving Ugandan wants it that way and with it, there won’t be any violence.

Police should also seem to work in a non-partisan manner and carry out credible investigations into claims of possible vote rigging and planned violence, with all culprits being brought to book without fear or favor.

For God and My Country.





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