On January 14, people in Uganda head to the polls to vote in the country’s elections. But with internet shutdowns, opposition intimidation and a president who has been in charge for 35 years, there is a lot of tension in the country. A journalism student from Uganda explains the feeling on the ground.
Uganda has over 18 million voters, 353 constituencies and 34 684 polling stations. If Uganda’s electoral system was free and fair, I believe that people would have a final answer at the end of the voting. But our system is not free and not fair so it partially favours one side which is the ruling government.
I am not waking up tomorrow morning on the 14th to go and vote. It’s not because I don’t have an ID or I don’t have the age requirement. I have all that is required for me to vote in Uganda. But I am not going to wake up and be part of a failed system and still vote for a greedy system. At the end of the day we are all sure nothing is going to change because we have voted. The system has already been rigged from the beginning. The person that is in power is not ready to let us have something free and fair. Who can tell me there is going to be change when the commissioner – the one in charge of the electoral commission – is answerable to the president.
About the mood – it is totally worrying. People are worried and scared. In the city people are actually scared that it might be a war because the army is all over the place. The army planes are flying all over the town. There is nowhere you can pass and not find a troop of army people. People don’t know what is going to happen. They are warning each other and telling each other to have money with them and to store food in case of anything. The mood is really tensed up. People are worried about what is to come. I am positive that I will be safe but I had to move to the countryside where I know it is not as bad as in the city. It is a bit safer than staying in the capital. The mood is not something you call calm.
People are scared but they are willing to vote. At least 70% of people believe there could be change. The 30% are in the category of youth that have seen their colleagues die in the campaign rallies. They don’t want to lose their youthood to elections and rallies.
I am not biased or anything but I know there won’t be much change. I don’t think these elections will change anything however much they say that we have international organisations overseeing our election process. We will still have President Museveni as the winning candidate and the opposition coming next. There won’t be so much change. I wish Uganda could wake up with a system that is free and fair so that people don’t feel like voting is useless – like I am already feeling. So that people can see the value of elections and so that people can feel the answer for their vote but I don’t think there will be change.
I want people in South Africa and all around Africa to understand that however much Uganda has had a president that is known as a dictator for years now, the good he has done is visible and the bad is visible too. Uganda is a country which is peaceful and people are very hospitable. I believe if our government could listen to people’s worries and grievances I think Uganda would be one of the best African countries to go to – but for the dictatorship and the corruption and the greed. I think we can change this overnight if the government is willing to agree with the people.
Read more: African Countries Will Be Going To The Polls
May the best candidate win for the good of my country.
The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.