Before I Cast That Ballot,…

The first time I ever got into an election was in Primary School. My friend, Ghalib Thabit – Ugandan of Asian descent – was running for Health Prefect and he needed, badly, to win the election.

Ghalib, was not the least connected candidate, he knew how to get sweets to all the children in the school, what he perhaps didn’t have was the nerve to stand infront of them to read out his promises. Primary school elections were not that much, with the exception of getting a knot-able tie and a tag, the rest of the privileges that came with the post were everything everyone else enjoyed. Also, the major part of elections – as I have grown to learn – was not present then – Responsibility.

The next time I was in the  thick of an election was in my A-level at Kiira College Butiki. My brother was running for the school’s most sensitive post, Mess prefect, and he needed my help and the entire school’s help to tilt the election his way. During our discussions, we agreed to go around it the rude way, we got his competitor to pull out of the race by guaranteeing him another post on the Students council. It looked right then but after a few conversations on free and fair election, I realize we rigged that one.

What am I saying in all this? The process of understanding how a free and fair election works should become culture, people need to understand, right from the childhood, that rigging an election influences a decision that could affect the entire nation. While we bought sweets to get Ghalib through as health prefect, the child who couldn’t afford those sweets was not on the same level playing field. It only explains why I see no wrong in the NRM being on different fields than the opposition in an election – yet It is wrong. The decision we made then probably robbed the primary school of a potential health prefect.

The discussion on free and fair elections was ongoing in Kampala in the last three days, The NRM, which is the party in power and the one most likely going to rig the elections was not in attendance. We pretended – at the conference – that we shall make resolutions and walk through them without the NRM but I doubt that will succeed. What we have in effect created is a stark divide in the election debate. – the reform advocates Vs the NRM and perhaps we have set this country on its trend to unspeakable election violence yet we were on a noble cause.

Electoral officers count votes at the end of a voting day in Uganda. Elections - since independence have been rigged in Uganda.
Electoral officers count votes at the end of a voting day in Uganda. Elections – since independence have been rigged in Uganda.

A free and fair election is not just about what leader you get, it influences the public confidence in its leadership, it  determines the spirit of the nation but most importantly it dictates the level of commitment the citizen will give to his country. We are always crying that the state of affairs in the country is bad and yes we know how to change that but the boring nature of our leadership here is not inspiring for people to devote their time. Our best statisticians would rather be in private firms than work for government, the best lawyers would rather sue the hell out of government than work at the attorney generals chambers, the best doctors we have would rather be in Dubai than sit and develop the health care system here and the reason is simple, there is no inspiration here!

We (the majority) have seen the same leader since birth and will probably do for the next five years. His policies have been tried and tested and failed us, his government is unappealing, his ministers are not creative, his style of leadership is dull and the general mood of the nation has been dulled down too. Our education system is flawed, the health care a mess, public service is a rot rubbish and the private sector snail-speedily tries to catch up with the rest of the world. Our neighbours, with different governments on every ten year clock mock us everyday with their efficient systems, they laugh at our incompetencies and inequities, we cry, we sob and we laugh and then move on to other conversation like how our musicians are better than theirs. We are not content with our government but equally we don’t have the capacity and pleasure and even strength to change it, you know why? Because the nature of changing governments – atleast back here – is one we don’t like an know how to use. Brute force.

To demand for a free and fair election – which should be ideally a right is the least we can do to contribute to this and let the journey to that start.

Dear Kaguta Museveni nd your NRM turks, give us one free and fair election.

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