Uganda will be going to the ballot on Thursday, February 18, 2016. With an estimated population of over 37 million, the East African landlocked country has over 15 Million registered voters who will be deciding the next president. The presidential race remains tight between the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, and seven opposition contestants.
President Yoweri Museveni who has ruled for three decades, will be seeking re-election under the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party for a fifth term. He is considered as Africa’s longest serving president who brought stability in Uganda after unseating Autocratic ruler Tito Okello Lutwa in 1986 through a guerilla war. At the age of 71 years, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is campaigning on the platform of job and wealth creation for the people of Uganda. Although President Museveni is enjoying wider support, his regime has been criticized both locally and internationally. Harsh criticism has been on corruption, violation of fundamental human rights, unemployment, high cost of living, poor quality of public services and plan of anchoring totalitarian regime by the ruling party following the constitutional amendment that scrapped off presidential term limits.
Key presidential hopefuls who want to succeed President Museveni are Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye Kifefe who has run for presidency on main opposition Forum for Democratic Change unsuccessfully in the last three presidential elections and a former Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who was a long time advisor to President Museveni and former NRM Secretary General, will be running under the GoForward banner. Other Candidates include; Baryamureeba Venansius, Maureen Faith Kyalya Waluube, Abed Bwanika, and Biraaro Buta Benon.
The three main presidential candidates’ manifestos have been to improve the livelihood of the Ugandans and strengthen the economy through job creation, provision of affordable healthcare, and fighting corruption.
A presidential candidate will be required to achieve a threshold of 50% + 1 vote in order to win or else face a presidential run-off with the closely - ranked candidate within a period of 30 days. The new government will constitute 418 parliamentary seats following the creation of 43 new constituencies in 2015.
Voters hope that the elections will be conducted peacefully to avoid election violence that marred the previous presidential elections. The presidential campaign period will come to a close on February 16, 2016.
By Simon Achieno
Public Affairs Commentator
2016 UGANDA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: MEDIA CLAMPDOWN AS GOVERNMENT SWITCH OFF SOCIAL MEDIA FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND WHATSAPP OFF, UGANDA JOINS ERITREA
Uganda Journalists Union (UJU) condemns in the strongest terms possible the switching off Social Media networks by the government regulator Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) ahead of today’s Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.
The UCC switched off the widely used facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp, networks leaving bigger part of the country in a blackout, save for the radio broadcasts, a development observers said is aimed at covering a flawed electoral process.
Local and foreign observers are perplexed and frustrated as they can no longer follow developments and make progressive reports pertaining to the Ugandan electoral process. Journalists are the most affected group as they cannot give progressive updates on social media as is supposed to be and citizens and the world cannot follow what is happening.
Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director Mr Godfrey Mutabazi told Central Broadcasting Service (CBS) radio today that they were forced to switch off social media as a measure aimed at safeguarding the country’s security during the General Elections. But Uganda Journalists Union (UJU) President Lucy Anyango Ekadu condemned the UCC for violating article 41 of the Ugandan Constitution that guarantees access to information and article 29 that ensures Freedom of Expression.
She said switching off social media is highly seen as a deliberate move orchestrated by government to stifle voices of descent, hide a flawed electoral process and deny Ugandans the right to know what is actually happening. “We condemn these acts of suppressing Press freedom and freedom of expression at a time when the media should be informing the public of what is happening,” She said.
Ms Lucy Anyango Ekadu said the media should be allowed to perform their duties without any obstacles, which suppress Press Freedom and muzzle freedom of expression. “Authorities must respect local and international laws that govern Press freedom, Freedom of Expression, democracy and human rights,“ she said.
The latest move to clampdown on the social media comes after the Uganda Communications Commission has been issuing threats to close down radio stations which they say do not comply with operating regulations. It has become a common feature for authorities to stifle media freedom and effecting arbitrary closure of radio and television stations that host opposition politicians. WBS Television journalist Andrew Lwanga had his spin broken by a Police officer on January 12, 2015 while covering demonstration by unemployed youths and is now disabled.
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who has been in power for 30 years, is seeking another five - year term. He faces seven other candidates, who include his former Prime Minister Mr John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate Retired Col Dr Warren Kiiza Besigye Kifefe and Dr Abedi Bwanika. Others are Prof Venansius Baryamureeba, Retired Major Benon Biraro, Joseph Mabirizi and the only Woman candidate Maureen Kyalya.
Uganda is rated as Not Free in Freedom in the World 2016 index, and partly Free in the Freedom on the Net 2015, according to Freedom House.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.
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