The gory scenes of police vandalizing Robert Kyagulanyi’s vehicle on his nomination day and battering his adherents conjured up, on top of the rather comical scene where the same police violently violated the FDC president, Patrick Amuriat, were frightening.
These events may serve the dictatorial regime, but they deprive the 2021 elections of their much- needed integrity, decency and fairness. We should not tolerate violent elections or unfettered state violence against the opposition.
Images of scenes where journalists are battered to a coma while on duty tells a tale of tyranny and leaves quite impactful trauma on the minds of those who experience or witness it. Those who care to read into and internalize this regime’s militant engagement with the public rightfully have a very low expectation of the 2021 elections.
As a social critique, the only plausible claim to any NRM ideology is militarism and its raw violence. The conduct of the 2021 elections embodies this militarization in as much as the militarized agricultural programs or Covid-19 lockdown measures. And, the violence just increases at every subsequent election without an end in sight.
Comrades Kyagulanyi and Amuriat must take heed of these trends. I know they are doing their best to remain level-headed, calm and peaceful. However, even Chinua Achebe advises that any handshake which goes beyond the elbow turns into something else.
Solving socio-political problems using rampant and unjustifiable use of excessive state violence only helps to radicalize our youths and subdue our population. Thus, undermining the democratic processes. The Covid-19 lockdown revealed a snippet of how meticulous militarism can go on a civilian population.
The violence effectively immobilizes and disengages the opposition from interfacing with the voters and then generates voters’ apathy towards the electoral process and its outcomes. For democracy to occur, its tenets must be alive, and freedoms must be afforded to all.
How possible could candidates like Joseph Kabuleta traverse over 145 districts in 60 days when candidate Museveni is the only one with the right to fly choppers and use the media unfettered? The Electoral Commission has played its part in undermining the integrity of the elections covertly and overtly by their policy of non-action against police brutality on opposition candidates.
Without equal access to the electronic media, this digital or so-called smart election is itself a big fat farce. The EC must establish a clear rule to enable all candidates equal and unencumbered access to the media. In Uganda, the NRM has consolidated its control over the media/press and press freedoms.
The media is over-infiltrated, censored, surveilled, and most governed by the regime’s cadres and operatives to the detriment of freedom of expression.
As such, intellectual debates over the media have been curtailed and intellectualism has declined profoundly. As it looks, presidential candidates, Robert Kyagulanyi and Patrick Amuriat will not be tolerated on the media waves to reach their audiences. I can predict that the regime may tolerate Norbert Mao and Mugisha Muntu more for their benign presence on election tracks.
Further, the conduct of the militarized NRM police is a sobering indicator that there will not be any fairness in the 2021 elections. The so-called Independent Electoral Commission serves a mere functionality of legitimating an already flawed process if they cannot protect candidates and subdue the police.
You could see how the commissioners were so self-absolved and least bothered that Amuriat walked in on bare feet to his nomination at Kyambogo. That insensitivity ought to be called out. The main conclusion is that the integrity and fairness of 2021 elections are on the line. The EC should guarantee access to the media, control the police, and ensure free access to district facilities.
The author is a political critic.