Kampala (Agenzia Fides) – The polls open today, 18 February, in Uganda for the presidential and parliamentary elections. President Yoweri Museveni, in power for 30 years, is given as favorite.
The Ugandan Bishops in their pastoral letter entitled "Free and fair elections: our common mission to consolidating democratic gains in Uganda", published in August, presented their assessments and information about this important electoral event.
The Bishops acknowledge the progress made in recent years in the field of the strengthening of democracy, and warn that internal political strife often leads to some "major political crisis". It is to be highlighted that "In Uganda, the violence that characterized change of governments in 1966, 1971, 1979, 1985 and 1986 had their origins in the greed and dictatorial tendencies within and among various political actors. We believe these unfortunate incidents are still fresh in the minds of some of our current political players, yet they have continued to ignore what could soon become an explosive political situation which could be avoided".
It stresses in particular that "on many occasions, views of minority groups and the wider public have been ignored. Yet, again, history comes with some important lessons for us. Bad elections anywhere can be a recipe for political crisis. This was the case in Uganda in 1980 which we must work hard to avoid".
The Bishops complain among other things how "the indiscriminate use of force and preventive interventions in oppositional political activities has particularly created an impression of a Police Force determined to protect and promote the agenda of the ruling party". In addition to the above, concerns have been raised over the emergence of paramilitary groups in the country. Even more confusing is the fact that the groups operate under a registered Non-Government Organization aligned to the Police Force to "prevent" crimes. "We are afraid if this trend continues, it could give way to violence during and beyond the 2016 elections".
"In conclusion, we reiterate the fact that elections come with great opportunities and challenges for our Country. We, therefore, encourage all actors to work for peace and ensure the process widens the options for democratic choices for our young nation. On our part we promise to journey with you in prayer", the message concludes. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 18/02/2016)