Welcome South Sudan! With 98% of the Sudanese voting ‘yes’ to partition of the country, I look forward to a new stamp on my passport.
There are nine days to go until the presidential elections here in Uganda. The walls, lampposts and Palm trees are plastered with election posters, some giving basic guidelines to candidates and the excitable electorate. Notices like “it’s illegal to cover your number plate with a candidate’s election poster or to create an effigy of a candidate” tickled the Muzungu.
The high profile Electoral Commission (funded by external donors) is doing its best to educate voters, (although it hasn’t been above criticism). There’s a large poster by the side of the road showing people how to vote properly e.g. showing a tick or fingerprint.
I read in Saturday’s Monitor newspaper how the opposition is proposing a delay in the election day. One of the unconstitutional aspects they are complaining about is that there appear to be 400,000 more people on the register than there are of voting age.
There are some interesting election strategies at work. There are some good debates by some very intelligent people but there are some shenanigans too.
Many uneducated people are being bought off: I hear a vote can be as cheap as 500 shillings (15 pence), a bar of soap or a bag of sugar. This weekend we read the rumours about the wife of the leader of the opposition wanting a divorce. “Where do you want me to go if I leave such a handsome man?” she asked. The NRM are jealous, she said, and are just trying to cause arguments and detract from the issues at hand.
It seems a certainty that President Museveni will remain in power for another term.
There’s been a noticeable show of strength. In the last two weeks we’ve seen a lot more police and military police on the streets. Yesterday a military helicopter flew over the house. It’s not intimidating, they’re not doing anything but they’re there. Crossing Jinja Road during rush-hour yesterday several trucks full of police moved past us. Up country, people are wondering whether the influx of troops will be used to cast additional votes. Rumour and counter-rumour, the muzungu’s not sure who to believe.
In the light of what’s been happening in the Arab world, particularly Egypt, you have to wonder whether that excitement might spread to Uganda. People think it unlikely “but you never can tell” said my friend who works for the US Defence Department.
The poster in a taxi window summed it all up for me: “Don’t vote for sugar. Vote for issues.”