The 1996 election and the 2016 elections; staggering similarities of government party and actions towards the opposition! The difference now is Besigye VS M7; then it was Ssemogerere VS M7!
As President Museveni lost with no swagger in 1980 he later returned twice with armies to become the president in 1986. The 1986 where NRA took the power; that story knows all of Uganda well; what Uganda has forgotten is the tactics and ways of rigging the elections of 1996. Even Dr. Kizza Besigye was ready for somebody else in 1996. That says something as the NRM tactics was using levels of fear and tell the general public: “if you vote for somebody else then the Obote-Dictatorship will return!” There is something wrong with that picture as this should be the ushering of democratic values that was installed and promised in the 10 Point Program from President Museveni. This was also the Election that ushered in the Universal Primary Election (UPE) while has done certain things with educations and spreading schools around the country, after many years to many of them has been neglected and has shown that the promise and reform was easier then actually achieving quality school education under the NRM-Regime.
The democratic values and fair elections were not achieved in 1996. As the countless reforms says. The Western nations and International Organizations accepted the result as a positive move for Uganda, even with the malpractices and also because still at this time the world saw President Museveni as the new breed of leadership. He would go away from all the things he might have built later in his presidential career. 1996 Elections was “No-Party” election with a new Interim Electoral Commission who was far from impartial. Kind of what the Electoral Commission proves without any subtlety in today’s election climate.
Besigye against Museveni candidature in 1996:
“Though Besigye was a National Political Commissar, minister and Museveni confidant, by 1996 – as his 1995 decision, and that of other officers like now Lt. Gen. David Tinyefuza and the late Lt. Col. Serwanga Lwanga to oppose entrenching the Movement’s monopoly of power in the constitution and the near-banning of political parties – the differences were public” (…)”However, it has now emerged that Besigye and other people in the NRM and army in 1996 were opposed to Museveni running as the Movement presidential candidate” (…)”In 1996 Besigye relented at the last minute to go and campaign for Museveni in Rukungiri. He appeared at no more than two rallies, and spoke at one. The very personal and acrimonious face off between the two men last year therefore arose from a feud that had been simmering for about 10 years” (COO, 2002).
How not to vote for Ssemogerere:
“The Constant refrain during Museveni’s 1996 presidential campaign was that a vote for his opponents would cause a return to the past, the former dictator Milton Obote was waiting in Zambia to return to power if Museveni was defeated. One of Museveni’s presidential election poster featured a picture of skulls and bones besides a mass grave in Luwero with the caption: “Don’t forget the past. Over one million Ugandans, our brothers, sisters, family and friends, lost their lives. YOUR VOTE COULD BRING IT BACK”; another campaign advertisement stated bluntly: “A vote for Ssemogerere is a vote for Obote” (Bouckaer, 1999).
How the sentiment was during the campaign:
“Ssemogerere seems to have hugely underestimated the depth of fear and hatred for Obote and his party among the majority of Buganda. Virtually everyone interviewed who had voted for Museveni emphasized that they had voted in part to avoid any chance of a return to the violence and anarchy of the early 1980s. The effect of Ssemogerere alliance with UPC, however, does not seem to have been intimidating. Most people felt shift in sentiment against Ssemogerere in the last two months prior to the election. The Museveni campaign strategy of increasingly emphasizing the UPC and Obote connection towards the end of the campaign period was felt to been effective” (IFES, 1996).
Museveni used the laws to stifle Ssemogerere campaign:
“The Ssemogerere camp tried to set up branches in the country. This ran foul of the law against setting up party structures. The police constantly frustrated this method of trying to reach the voters. There was a simpler and more effective method used by the Museveni camp. It is simply to announce campaign task forces and groups for given locations. While Ssemogerere was attempting to organise by “structure”, Museveni was organising by “process”. The former violated the existing law; the latter did not. The task force approach recognises the criticality of patrons who mediate the delivery of the votes of their peasant flock. In this approach it is not direct contact with voters, which is not feasible in backward areas with all forms of barriers (language), but contact with the patrons who go through lesser nested patrons to reach the final voters. Yoweri Museveni set up a more effective patron–client campaign network than Ssemogerere’s party structure approach” (Kotorobo, 2000).
How it ended:
“Hours after the Interim Electoral Commission (IEC) led by Stephen Akabway had announced provisional results on May 10; the IPFC candidate Ssemogerere dismissed them as false at a press conference at IPFC headquarters in Kabusu, Kampala. Ssemogerere said: “I cannot accept these results as valid”. The New Vision, The Monitor, as well as the Crusader newspapers of the following day, quoted him as having said. “I have been a patient person in public life. I thought this was the best thing for this country. I have spent time with people I don’t agree with for the sake of democracy. I have not known time before or after independence, when people of different political beliefs, religions and nationalities have come together for once. Now all this has been shattered by the stubbornness of [Yoweri Museveni] wanting to cling to power,” he added. During the press conference, Ssemogerere also revealed 54 cases of malpractices recorded by DP across the country. The 64-year-old DP stalwart said rigging of votes included intimidation of voters by the State, use of pre-ticked ballot papers, use of fake voter’s cards and doctored voter registers” (Mugabe, 2016).
Questionable freedom of speech during the 1996 campaign:
“The Government controls one television station and the radio station with the largest audience. There are three local television stations, three local radio stations, and five stations available by satellite. Uncensored Internet access became widely available through three commercial service providers in major cities, although its price was prohibitive for all but the most affluent noninstitutional users. Freedom of speech did not fare well in the context of the transition to constitutional government, including the presidential and parliamentary elections. Guidelines imposed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs prevented members of the former constituent assembly from addressing groups outside their constituencies. Electoral rules prohibited “campaigning” by presidential challengers until the official start of the campaign 39 days before the election. However, in their official capacity, President Museveni and senior members of the Government were free to travel throughout the country for months prior to the election. Rallies in support of all three presidential candidates suffered varying levels of harassment from thugs, in some cases resulting in physical injuries. It appeared, however, that such incidents were particularly directed at President Museveni’s opponents. Yusef Nsubuga Nsambu, a leader of the Conservative party and a supporter of presidential challenger Dr. Paul Ssemogerere, was arrested in May and charged with sedition for his unflattering descriptions of President Museveni. He was released unharmed 2 days later” (U.S. Department of State, 1997).
Celebrating the victory:
“KAMPALA, UGANDA — Thousands of President Yoweri Museveni’s supporters drove through the capital honking car horns and chanting “No change” Saturday to celebrate his first electoral victory” (…)”When Museveni was declared the winner on national radio Saturday, tens of thousands of his supporters poured onto Kampala’s streets, chanting “No change” in the local Luganda language, blasting car horns, and waving branches and flags” (Bashor, 1996).
One reason why he won the 1996 Election:
“Not all NRM successes showed the system’s popularity. The government manipulated small constituencies to gain beholden candidates in many special interest seats created by the 1995 constitution for women, youth, workers, the disabled and the army” (ICG, 2012).
Reports of malfunctions during the 1996 elections:
““The election drew a lower turnout than expected and suffered some logistical problems, but Ugandans generally avoided widely feared violence” (…)“Many of the country’s 8.4 million voters stayed away from the polls, and in many districts, turnout hovered around 50 percent. Logistical problems also hampered voting. At numerous polling stations, Ugandans complained that their names were not on the list of registered voters. “We have waited for hours, and we cannot vote,” said Patrick Nuwgaba, 20, surrounded by about 20 people who said they had been barred from voting. “We have our voter cards, but they say the numbers we have don’t match the numbers they have for us.” Despite those problems, calm prevailed around the country. Election observers reported, however, that in some pro-Museveni districts, especially in western Uganda, Ssemogerere backers had difficulty voting because of hostile crowds” (Buckley, 1996).
Questions about the victory:
”Within 24-hours of voting — and while the ballot papers were still being counted — the Inter Political Forces Cooperation (IPFC) backing the main opposition candidate Ssemogerere, announced that the constitutionally imposed “no-party” elections had been rigged” (…)”We have left it up to individuals to decide whether to stand,” Ssemogerere told IPS. “The electoral process is wrong and its going to be wrong again. If anyone stands they should know it will be with those disadvantages.” (…)”The IPFC’s compromise decision was reminiscent for some people of the 1980 elections in which the UPC are widely believed to have cheated the DP of victory — leaving Ssemogerere open to accusations of legitimising the government when he then took up position as leader of the opposition” (…)”Museveni was backed by, and represented his Movement “no- party” system of government while Ssemogerere was supported by the DP and UPC alliance and represented a return to multi-party politics — a return which would have required a change to the constitution” (Bozello, 1996).
As we see about this Dr. Kizza Besigye and other opposition candidates get the same treatment that Dr. Paul Ssemogerere of Democratic Party in 1996. The vote-rigging, the issues with meeting people, with consulting the party members in the districts, the time for campaigning which apparently happens also before the pre-election period in Uganda in 2015. President Museveni doesn’t only recycle pledges his Police acts similar in 2015 as in 1996. That should be thought of as he talks of that the Movement brings progress. If progress means the same structure that doesn’t offer people freedom or liberty to discuss politics. Then it is NRM for you tomorrow. As the 1996 experience shows; there is a multi-party elections tomorrow, but the signs of 1996 looks strikingly similar, and the Police Force and Governmental institutions is structured to facilitate for the ruling party and funding his campaign while the opposition struggles with unleveled campaigning field that has been all through to the 18th Feburary polls. There is a certainty that Dr. Kizza Besigye has used smarter tactics than Dr. Paul Ssemogerere, but them both has fought the same monster which used the same style of campaigning in 2015-2016 as before the 1996, as he then gave 40 days campaigning as the districts was less, and the same now to the other candidates.
The fear used to intimidate candidates has been used in 2016. As even the security outfits has been deployed and both the army and Special Forces Command; they have been there following opposition and the police has target their trail as the Electoral Commission has given okay to their campaign trail in the start of the campaign in November 2015. This here shows the levels of fear and strong militarized politics that President Museveni feeds on; that has occurred through the whole campaign in the same way it did in 1996. That 2016 and 1996 looks so alike is staggering. The names of the other “actors” are different, but the end-game is the same. Though we hope that the people who are ready for change will see it as the old-man with the hat will do what he can to keep power; even if the people are ready for something else then his empty promises. Peace.
Bashor, Richard – ‘In First Direct Election Since ’62, President Wins Overwhelmingly’ (12.05.1996) – Chicago Tribune.
Bouckaer, Peter – ‘Hostile to Democracy: The Movement System and Political Repression in Uganda’ (August 1999).
Borzello, Anna – ‘UGANDA-POLITICS: ‘Where-To-Now’ Conundrum For Opposition’ (16.05.1996) – Inter Press Service
Buckley, Stephen – ‘INCUMBENT LIKELY WINNER IN UGANDAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE’ (11.05.1996) – Washington Post
Katorobo, James – ‘The Uganda Presidential and Parliamentary Elections 1996’ (2000)
Mugabe, Faustin – ‘How free and fair was the Uganda 1996 election after 10 years of rule by the political party of the National Resistance Movement?’ (30.01.2016).
International Crisis Group (ICG) – ‘UGANDA: NO RESOLUTION TO GROWING TENSIONS’ (05.04.2012).
International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) – ‘Uganda: Long Term Observation of 1996 Presidential and Legislative Election (May-July 1996).
Onyango-Obbo, Charles (COO) – ‘Besigye Opposed Museveni’s Bid in 1996, And Set Off Movt Demons’ (15.12.2002) – Daily Monitor
U.S. Department of State – ‘Uganda Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1996’ Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, (January 30, 1997).