Africa-Press – Uganda. Ugandans go to the polls this week to elect new leaders at various governance levels, starting today with the election of Special Interest Groups councillors. There are various categories of elective positions scheduled for different dates.
The major focus is, however, on the presidential and parliamentary elections taking place on Thursday, January 14. The spotlight has mainly been on the presidential election campaigns for two reasons: this is the highest office in the land and it would, certainly, attract more attention.
Secondly, the campaign period for the presidential elections has been characterised by violence targeting some candidates, their supporters and journalists who are covering them.
The ugly side of the campaign period was laid bare when, on November 18, protests broke out in Kampala and other towns following the arrest of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine.
The protests quickly degenerated into riots and more than 54 Ugandans were killed during the violence.
This volatile situation can only change if we take collective responsibility to act responsibly by calling for peace and justice for victims. It was, therefore, disappointing to watch the Inspector General of Police, Mr Martins Okoth-Ochola, saying his forces beat up journalists to ‘protect them’ from danger.
Similarly, Security minister Elly Tumwine in November made remarks that security personnel have a right to kill protesters if they are attacked. We do not condone any form of unlawful behaviour and anyone who breaks the law must be held accountable.
However, there are lawful ways of handling law breakers, especially unarmed people. Due process should be followed.
As we go to the polls, there is division and anger from some sections of the population as seen during the violent scenes in November and on the campaign trails. But we must remember that the elections will soon be over and Uganda will remain the country that accommodates all of us regardless of our political affiliation.
The citizens of this country will get on with their lives – some happy that their candidate has won, others sad that their preferred leader did not make it. The winner of the presidential poll will have the crucial task of taking the country forward and leading people who subscribe to different political parties and hold divergent views. Unity in diversity is central to developing this nation.
The integrity of the electoral process is, of course, central to the outcome of the polls. It is the role of the Electoral Commission to ensure this exercise is free and fair. Let’s turn up and vote.