Whither Uganda? Election 2011
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On February 6th, the day of my KPFA News report below, the Uganda Monitor reported that US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, were in Uganda to speak to the three opposition presidential candidates, Kizza Besigye of Inter-Party Cooperation, Olara Otunnu of the Uganda Peoples Congress, and Norbert Mao of the Democratic Party, and that the meeting “formed the basis of their engagement with President Museveni.” Uganda’s Daily Monitor also reported that “Uganda is a key strategic partner to the US in its role in maintaining regional stability.”
KPFA Weekend News Host Anthony Fest: Uganda is approaching parliamentary and presidential elections on February 18th. The current regime of Yoweri Museveni imprisoned one of the leading candidates, Dr. Kizza Besigye, when he ran against Museveni in 2005 and 2006, but all charges were dropped and Besigye is running again this year. Internationally known human rights advocate Olara Otunnu, former U.N. Under-Secretary General and Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict Zones returned from exile to run for president, and Norbert Mao, a Ugandan lawyer known for his negotiations to bring peace to Uganda’s war torn north, is running against Museveni as well. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has the story.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Uganda, appears to be having a real presidential election, unlike Rwanda, where two of three viable presidential candidates had been arrested before the election year was over and both remain in maximum security prison. Uganda’s leading presidential candidates are actively campaigning, as are parliamentary candidates, though election violence is feared and few expect the election to be free or fair. Dr. Kizza Besigye has said that he will conduct his own presidential exit polls, though Museveni has threatened to arrest him if he does.
The main campaign issues are poverty, government corruption, and segregated education, which leaves children of the majority peasant population being shuffled through poor public schools, without acquiring any skills, while children of the elite attend private school.
Presidential candidate Olara Otunnu, who attended primary and secondary school in a mud hut in Uganda’s indigenous Acholi region, went on to Uganda’s Makerere University and from there to Oxford and Harvard Law School, but he says that his story is not possible in Uganda now
Olara Otunnu: The education system, especially at the primary level and the elementary level, have completely collapsed. The government has abandoned the public schools, the government schools. And instead, with the corruption, the country has seen a mushrooming of top quality private schools for those who are very, very wealthy. And then, this completely collapsed the system for the vast majority of children. These schools are no longer able to lay the foundation for children who go on to secondary schools, who can become teachers, and doctors, and engineers, as it used to be in our school system.
KPFA: Melanie Nathan, Marin County Human Rights Commissioner, Editor/Contributor to LezGetReal, a Gay Girl’s View of the World, and international LGBT activist says that damage to Uganda’s public schools is a tragedy for Ugandans and for LGBT rights:
Melanie Nathan: Destroying pubic education, as Museveni has in Uganda, is a great way to encourage the fearful religious fundamentalism manipulated by those trying to institute homicidal homophobia with this Anti-Homosexuality Act, also known as the Hang-the-Gays Bill.
KPFA: Many Congolese people, including Eric Kamba, of the Boston-based Congolese Development Center, would like to see Museveni voted out of office because of his army’s war crimes in Congo, which have been documented in many UN reports. Kamba, a refugee from Congo’s central Kasai Province, says that he would be assassinated if he went home because he has accused the Congolese President Joseph Kabila of corruption and collaboration with Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the invasion and occupation of Congo.
Eric Kamba: As an African, I would like to see Yoweri Museveni voted out of office because he caused the collapse of the most fundamental social institutions and high levels of poverty and corruption in his own country. As a Congolese refugee, I want to see his regime end because he invaded and occupied Congo, and is still plundering its natural resources. In 2008, the International Refugee Commission, estimated that there have been 5.4 million deaths due to the conflict in Congo, and there have been many more since 2008 that no one has counted.
KPFA: And what would you expect from Uganda’s other presidential candidates?
Eric Kamba: Dr Kizza Besigye has spoken out against Uganda’s invasion of Congo for years and the other leading presidential candidates oppose it as well; any of them would be a big improvement for Uganda, Congo, and Africa. Museveni has been clinging to power and terrorizing the whole Great Lakes Region for the past 25 years.
KPFA: For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.