On Thursday, Ugandans go the polls in the country’s first multi-party elections in more than two decades. President Yoweri Museveni is trying to extend his 20-year hold on power, which critics say has become increasingly dictatorial.
Kenneth Kazooba is the general manager of the independent television station WBS-TV in Kampala. His station has five talks shows per week, which solicit the views of not just the urban elites, but also of what Kazooba calls the common man. The station also has reporters in the field.
English to Africa reporter William Eagle asked him whether the call shows and man-in-the-street interviews show support for a third term for President Museveni or whether they indicate a desire for change.
“It’s interesting because President Museveni still has tremendous support especially up-country, [while] the urban areas are increasingly turning away from him. This has to do with the education and access to information the urban areas have. They’ve been reading about corruption (and other issues raised by the opposition). But for people in the villages, their concern is safety. As long as they can have a peaceful life without a gunshot and wake up in the morning and go to work, to them, [it]’s the president (who guarantees that).”
Kazooba says the opposition has missed a chance to take power by not forming a common front against the president. He also says President Museveni’s rival, Kizza Besigye, appeals mostly to intellectuals who worry about term limits. He says the president has control over most of the issues that affect everyday life – like the building of roads, schools and health clinics. On the other hand, he says the ruling party’s ability to deliver on its promises is diminishing:
“There are so many cases of corruption that have affected the (people). Yes, the government has plans to deliver services, but somewhere there is always a corruption case and that affects delivery.”
Kazooba thinks the elections will be close and there will probably be court challenges. But he thinks the courts will probably rule that any irregularities that may take place were not numerous or serious enough to affect the outcome of the polls. Likewise, he says, observers will find that overall, the elections are free and fair.