I had an opportunity to spend a greater part of Martyrs day reading through the President’s letter on Election Rigging in Uganda; 1961-2014 authored on 25th May 2014. Yes, I read and re-read the letter several times just to be very sure that I understood the President correctly (many times, Mr. Museveni has cried foul over being ‘misquoted’ or ‘misinterpreted’ or even sometimes being ‘misread’. I did not want to be part of those ‘careless’ people that ‘misread’ (in this case) the president.
The President’s letter touched on a number of important issues in respect to Uganda’s electoral processes. At the core was the need to correct current electoral misdemeanors such as vote rigging through introducing the much alluded to computerized voting technology.
As a citizen who has been keenly following the debate around electoral reforms in Uganda, I however expected to hear the President’s holistic approach in reforming the electoral system. First, I expected ‘His Excellency’ to respond to some of the fundamental reform issues already on the table; the role of security in elections, the question around the reinstatement of presidential terms limits in the Constitution, the issue of reforming the election management body, among others. May be these and many more will be contained in the President’s next letter (on ‘broader electoral reforms’).
Further more, I would have also loved to hear Mr. President speak about his views and intentions around entrenching article 102(b) of the Constitution to ensure that some of these ‘power hungry’ elements do not manipulate it to run for presidency when they are above the Constitutional age limit of 75. I am sure that by now Mr. President’s intelligence contacts have already brought to his attention that some mischievous fellows (aged 75 or thereabout) may want to contest for presidency and may already be plotting to remove that Constitutional age limit.
If I remember correctly though, Mr. President last year (on a local TV show) scolded those fellows ‘lacking in ideology’ and actually pointed out to them that it had been scientifically proven that after 75 years, one was not capable of leading (‘vigorously’). In Mr. President’s letter, I would have expected to see this re-echoed and coming out very concisely so that all those Ugandans who harbor such ‘unpatriotic’ thoughts quickly repent of such sinful intentions and find solace in being retired, dignified grandparents.
Finally, the president being the ‘fountain of honour’, I expected that his parting shot would be in line with strengthening the country’s value system. The issues raised in the letter are of a moral nature. It is not just ‘election rigging’; it is ‘stealing of votes’. And we know that ‘stealing’ or ‘theft’ is not just bad but it also depicts the moral bankruptcy of the person who does it. Therefore theft of votes in Uganda cannot be merely fixed mechanically with (computerized voting) machines as the Mr. President proposes.
Embracing computerized voting will probably mean that we fork out a few more billion shillings to have the voting, result tallying and announcement done faster; but we will not have fixed the underlying moral questions of integrity, honesty, trust that in this case are the principals.
If we don’t resolve to build a society of virtuous people, then we sadly will not have virtuous institutions, structures and systems. Machines (and laws) will probably do very little to bring back the virtues we aspire for in our electoral system.
Nevertheless, I congratulate the President on his candidness to publically express his desire for a reformed electoral system. It is a (baby) step in the absolutely right direction. I personally don’t take this for granted!
Mr. President, how is your schedule? Are you available to take the stage at next week’s Call for Free and Fair Elections Campaign rally?