In Uganda, voters are going to the polls today to elect representatives to head the country’s 63 districts.
Free-lance reporter Tolit Olwor-Atya is following the vote --informally known as LC5, or local council elections -- which he says is drawing a low turnout on a very rainy day across Uganda.
Olwor-Atya says the polls are significant in Uganda's new multi-party system: “In terms of policy, the LC5 is quite an important office. We are being decentralized and a huge chunk of the budget is directly evolved and sent to the district—and the local councils do budget the money and choose the priorities of the communities they represent. They do infrastructure, roads, and promote production and development and agriculture and other things.”
So far, he says, figures are in for about 23 of the districts, with the ruling NRM party winning in a little more than half. But there’s been at least two upsets in favor of the opposition: In Gulu Province, member of parliament Norbert Mao has unseated incumbent Walter Ochora. Meanwhile, in Kampala, former mayor Nasser Ssebaggala beat media entrepreneur Peter Ssesmatimba. Mr. Ssebagala lost his seat in 1998 after being convicted of fraud and money laundering in Boston.
Olwor-Atya says President Yoweri Museveni will need the cooperation of these new grassroots leader in order to govern effectively: “The president will have to strongly rely on fulfilling his manifesto promises through district agendas, so he desperately needs allies. He must be very desperate. particularly in Kampala where in the presidential elections he lost to the opposition and now he’s against faced with a mayor of the opposition (again)…[T]his is definitely going to pose a challenge for [the ruling party] over the next five years.”