Ugandans finally go to the polls today after a turbulent campaign period which has left least 60 people, mostly on the opposition side, dead.
Many others are still nursing injuries sustained during confrontations between opposition supporters and security enforcement agencies that used Covid-19 containment rules as an excuse to put a leash on opposition leaders.
President Museveni’s strongest challenger, Robert Kyagulanyi, has endured the brunt of police intimidation and harassment, so much that he had to send his family out of Uganda for their safety.
Not even journalists escaped the violence meted out by the Uganda police and army. In fact, a senior Ugandan police officer had the audacity to say that the rough treatment journalists were getting was for their own good.
A few days ago, the army took law enforcement operations from the police in what can be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate voters.
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However, Museveni claims he deployed the army to stop violence and preempt attempts by the opposition to steal elections, an unlikely eventuality.
These occurrences point to deliberate attempts by State agencies to ensure Museveni, who has been in power for a record 35 years, carries the day by hook or crook.
Similar tactics were witnessed in Tanzania’s campaign period prior to the October 2020 General Election that resulted in the opposition crying foul.
These are pointers that today’s presidential contest in Uganda is unlikely to be free and fair as espoused by democratic ideals.
Yet despite all the harassment, voters have the final say at the ballot box. They should vote with their consciences and refuse to give in to intimidation.
Uganda’s electoral agency must prove beyond doubt that it is a fair arbiter by sticking to the rules of fair play. It should not give in to any coercion by the incumbent president, or even willfully subvert the people’s will to give Museveni undue advantage.
The conduct of the Electoral Commission of Uganda will determine whether the elections will be adjudged free and fair or a sham.
Election observers have a duty to the people of Uganda to ensure fair play both at the ballot and in counting halls as a guarantee that the final result will reflect the people’s will.
An already disillusioned opposition should not be given more reason to say that the polls were rigged in favour of Museveni. All and sundry must play their roles diligently to ensure that democracy triumphs in Uganda today.