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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Voters too have learnt: Crossing is for “eating”

The Election Day is getting nearer with each day and so is the tension and excitement as vote seekers seek to woo their way into the corridors of power. It is the first time Uganda is embracing what could be termed as reliable multiparty politics after 20 years of leadership under the Movement system of governance.

Those who cowed under the iron-fisted rule of Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada in 70s and others who froze under the cold multiparty politics of 80s steered by Milton Obote are looking at the new political arrangement as the real test for multiparty democracy in Uganda.

But that's not the gist of this piece. As campaigns evolve, and like elsewhere in the rest of the world, they never are devoid of bickering, bribery, betrayal, empty promises, even death. But to digress a bit, it is prudent upon all the keen followers of the prevailing political trend to remember Nelson Mandela who writes in his biography, Long Walk to Freedom, that if your husband is a wizard you must become a witch.

Simply put, this nugget of wisdom instils in women the idea of supporting their spouses' endeavours even to the point of sacrificing their own lives. Contemporarily relevant as per the last referendum where the visionary sons and daughters of our motherland used the power of the ballot to choose that a multi-party system of ruling was very ripe and ready to be enjoyed by all Ugandans, we must now fall back and examine whether we are bearing the cross we thrust on our shoulders when we first said multiparty oyeee!

Foremost, the sanctuaries have long caught fire - in there the shepherds have become umpires to an unclean game, giving credence to the assumption that politics is a dirty game. From Roman Catholicism to Protestantism and mostly among the radical Pentecostals, men and women of God are loosing sleep with recitations urging their flock to elect a particular candidate depending on his religious or political affiliation.

With due respect, one climbed a ladder and announced to the nation that one presidential candidate would drop dead. Well, he did garner himself publicity he is the talk of the town, but also, he has helped send panic in all political camps!

Then to the prospective presidents -Dr Abed Bwanika, Mrs Miria Obote, Dr Kizza Besigye, Mr Ssebaana Kizito, and at times the incumbent, Mr Yoweri K. Museveni, the whole lot seem to have been sent on a rampage of smear battles aimed at discrediting each other in the eyes of the voters.

Of course politics is an ugly sport, but the least Ugandans are interested in are insults. We are hungry for a promising programme, but most for a man who does nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit as is put in the Bible, and who considers all Ugandans better than himself. This is the man they would love to lead the nation in the next regime.

As such, the campaign trail snakes on as voters too play opportunistic. The spectacle is high; each campaign day where a group of so and so from wherever are assembled for the cameras before they testify to the nation how and why they chose to drift from a particular party to the other.

With the highlight that accompanies this, is the literally washing of the feet where defectors are pumped with money and whatever the party stands for before they are unleashed out into the world to get votes. And everywhere one passes, it has become a case of give me and I join you, a classic story of give and take.

The most threatening bit of the campaigns is the children. They can be seen flashing all the signs that have crept into the camps. Jesus of Nazareth was a great leader who encouraged the little ones to come to him. It would not be far fetched to assume that presidential aspirants are borrowing a leaf, but should they drag an infant in the midst of maddened crowds to campaign for his father?

What would happen if a stampede occurred, forcing the crowds to scatter for dear life? Who would protect the vulnerable child?

As we speak, some civilians have already lost their lives in the prevailing madness that is typical of most if not all-political campaigns in Africa. The drivers drive like mad. The other day, Carol Taka, a Uganda College of Commerce [UCC] student in Soroti died when a speeding vehicle she was travelling in to attend a presidential rally in Kaberamaido crashed. Others are reportedly hospitalised.

But what is there to learn from the examination chronicled above? Ugandans must desist from being part of dirty politicking orchestrated by most egoistic but sugar tongued politicians hassling to enter State House soon. Let them table their offering, is it the healthy lamb or are they giving be-weeviled beans?

Remember, nothing will sustain you more potently than the realisation that you made the best decision in voting who you voted, especially when you begin to see and reap from the fruits of your wise judgment within a few years.

I wrote this article using a different identity because I didn't want friends to think I did hold 'strong' political views afterall. Published in Daily Monitor, February 11, 2006