Uganda opposition wants election guarantees


Uganda’s top opposition leader called on the international community to help guarantee a fair election next year and not wait till it is too late as was the case with Kenya’s post-election bloodletting.

After a disputed election in 2007, Uganda’s neighbour slid into bloodshed that ended only after a power-sharing pact brokered by former UN head Kofi Annan. The violence has become a benchmark for outside observers eyeing east African polls.

Kizza Besigye of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change told Reuters in an interview that outside actors such as the African Union and the United Nations must come to Uganda and help ensure a fair vote.
“The time to engage is now … not to send Annan walking over corpses. They should come in now and cause a situation where all parties sit around the table and agree upon how to have a credible election,” Besigye said.
“We always engage all these people to intervene at the appropriate time but they don’t … they come to put out the fire,” he told Reuters.

The former guerrilla is widely expected to face a rematch — after losing the previous two ballots — against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the 2011 election.

Besigye clinched the role as his party’s flagbearer last week, but must still face-off with other opposition leaders to stand for an alliance against Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement.

Besigye, who was Museveni’s doctor in a bush war, said the alliance would likely pick a presidential candidate by end of June.

Ruling party spokeswoman Mary Okurut said that Ugandan elections had been free and fair. “(Besigye) wants to set the stage (to contest the election in court) … that’s one of their methods,” she said.

After years of political upheaval, Uganda has enjoyed two decades of steady growth and economic stability after Museveni’s rebels took power in 1986.

Oil contracts

East Africa’s third largest economy has seen increasing interest in its oil sector and debt markets. Foreign oil players have found an estimated two billion barrels and are expected to enter the production phase over the next few years.

Besigye said that oil contracts — which have not been made public — would be reviewed if he took power next year.
“A review can lead to any kind of outcome, it could lead to a renegotiation and it could lead to cancellation it could lead to any form of outcome depending on what we find.”

Foreign investors in Uganda’s debt markets are not widely expected to roll over positions in government Treasury bills and some analysts say capital expenditure and some investments might slow as the election approaches.

Besigye said there was no way the 2011 poll — the previous ballots had been marred by allegations of fraud — would be fair, and there were credible fears of violence.
“We’ve had very violent elections … There is therefore a basis from within our own experience for having that fear,” he said. “There is a lot of pent up anger within the population.”

Pic: President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda