The ballot box has not worked in Uganda

The history of elections in Uganda has been a sad one.

1. The ballot box did not work in 1961;

2. The ballot box did not work in 1962;

3. The ballot box did not work in 1980;

4. The ballot box did not work in 1996;

5. The ballot box did not work in 2001;

6. The ballot box did not work in 2006;

7. The ballot box did not work in 2011

Consequently, the ballot box is rapidly losing meaning in Uganda and has come to be seen as a formality to meet donor requirements for continued foreign aid and technical assistance. The conditions that make the ballot box work such as independent electoral commission, independent judiciary and term limits do not exist in Uganda. Museveni who has become NRM and the Uganda government by concentrating power in the presidency has defied everyone. In the absence of a level playing field, regime change won’t happen in Uganda through the ballot box. Make no mistake about that. All the 2011 election observer missions reported lack of a level playing field throughout the entire electoral process – from voter registration to the announcement of results. Museveni who is bent on staying in power for life and converting Uganda into a dynasty is not going to allow:

1. Creation of an independent electoral commission;

2. Reestablishment of term limits;

3. Separation of powers among the legislature, the executive and the Judiciary;

4. Maturing of a multiparty system;

5. Keeping the military out of politics;

6. Uniform funding of candidates

For various reasons, the international community has only complained softly.

1. It has not demonstrated determination to create conditions like targeted sanctions for Museveni to feel the heat and adjust;

2. Museveni has continued to receive generous donations and technical assistance;

3. Museveni’s rampant corruption has been tolerated;

4. Museveni’s level of sectarianism and crony capitalism has been overlooked;

5. Museveni’s abuse of human rights and fundamental freedoms has not received broad and commensurate condemnation;

6. Museveni’s mismanagement of public funds has been tolerated witness the number of districts of over 100 and still counting, the number of members of parliament, over 70 ministers and presidential advisers all paid for largely by donor money which is provided under the title of development. This wastefulness leaves little or no money for agriculture and rural development where some 90 percent of Ugandans earn their livelihood, education and healthcare, infrastructure and institutions, school lunch and environmental protection.

This state of affairs leaves Ugandans at home and abroad one choice – and one choice only. You are largely on your own. With conviction, determination and united, 33 million people can liberate themselves. It has happened before in 1962 and it will happen again – hopefully soon. If it has happened elsewhere it should also happen in Uganda. Ugandans are not different from other people. Ugandans feel pain like other people; Ugandans become angry like other people; Ugandans seek liberty, justice and dignity like other people. Ugandans like other people want their children to eat adequate and balanced food, get quality education and healthcare, get good jobs, remunerative incomes and work in decent conditions. To enjoy these things Ugandans will have to liberate their country from dictatorship disguised as democracy through the failed ballot box. Under present circumstances the ballot box will not remove dictatorship from Uganda. Thus, investing in elections in 2016 with the hope of regime change through the ballot box will be a bad decision. But miracles can happen including forcing a level playing field and eliminating the root cause of current obstacles.

When a government regardless of how it came into power is unwilling or unable to serve the needs of the people there is a breach of contract. And the people have a legitimate reason to change that government. Since changing government in Uganda is unlikely through the ballot box, other means have to be resorted to except the military in the first instance.

The use of the military in Uganda has not gone down well witness:

1. The 1966 experience that led to the 1967 constitutional changes;

2. The 1971 experience that brought Amin to power;

3. The 1979 experience of political and economic chaos;

4. The 1985 experience that cleared the path for NRM;

5. The 1986 experience that brought largely unknown Museveni to power promising democracy, rule of law, human security, sovereignty of the people and good neighborliness etc. Instead Museveni has militarized the country, impoverished the people and governed at gun point.

There is enough evidence to conclude that another military solution will not make Uganda better. It will only create another military government. Military governments in Uganda whether in military or civilian clothes have behaved badly grossly disadvantaging the people. Ipso facto change of regime by military means will be unwise. As noted already, other methods must be found. Civil resistance which constitutes legitimate means of removing unpopular regimes seems the alternative. And the timing could not be better.

Right now NRM government is very vulnerable. The economy has nose-dived; jobs are scarce; unemployed youth are restless; there is no food; there is no electricity; workers have not been paid; prices are galloping beyond the means of ordinary people; NRM MPs are in revolt; donors are reconsidering their continued support and UDU has provided an alternative development blue print accessible at This time the people – not the military – must effect regime change and install a civilian government. The military should stay neutral. Help to the people of Uganda from friends and well wishers will be welcome.

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