News / Africa

    Uganda's Lone Female Candidate: Election Won't Be Free or Fair

    Opposition candidate Maureen Kyalya is a former adviser to incumbent President Yoweri Museveni.
    Opposition candidate Maureen Kyalya is a former adviser to incumbent President Yoweri Museveni.
    James Butty

    The only female candidate in Uganda’s upcoming February presidential election says she is running because she wants to rebuild the foundation of the nation away from its colonial connection.

    But Maureen Kyalya, a former adviser to incumbent President Yoweri Museveni on poverty alleviation, also said she wants to unite the people.

    She said she does not believe the election will be free and fair because Museveni has created laws that make it harder for his challengers to have access to the voters.

    Presidential debate

    Kyalya criticized Museveni for not taking part in last Friday’s first-ever Uganda presidential debate.

    FILE - Uganda's presidential candidates take part in a presidential debate in Uganda's capital Kampala, Jan. 15, 2016, ahead of the Feb. 18 presidential election. Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni did not attend the debate.
    FILE - Uganda's presidential candidates take part in a presidential debate in Uganda's capital Kampala, Jan. 15, 2016, ahead of the Feb. 18 presidential election. Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni did not attend the debate.

    Museveni said he could not take part because debates are speech competitions that should be left to high school students and he could not leave his busy campaign schedule to attend such a function.

    “Basically, I’d like the people of Uganda to elect me because I want to rebuild the foundation of Uganda. The issues in Uganda start way back in 1900 at its foundation,” Kyalya said.

    She said Uganda is made up of roughly 15 kingdoms, with different languages and cultures. But she said when colonial Britain came it only signed an agreement with one kingdom, and other kingdoms were forced to become the modern day Uganda.

    She said since then, Ugandans have been fighting among themselves, and have never sat down to discuss the type of governance that would serve all Ugandans.

    “Today, even the current president was never elected into power. He came by gun power and has made sure he rigs the election every single time. So, I decided to take part in the election to appeal to Ugandans that we need to gather round a roundtable,” she said.

    Kyalya is one of six opposition candidates seeking to unseat Museveni, who has been in power for 30 years.

    “In a few words, the election has been rigged already because first and foremost the Ugandan law says that all public servants have to resign their offices before taking part in the election," she said.

    "The incumbent did not resign; he is the president of the country at the same time he is an aspiring candidate. And during this time, he is making all sorts of oppressive laws to make sure the opposition has no access to the public,” Kyalya added.

    FILE - Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, , centre, gestures to delegates attending the Burundi peace talks, at Entebbe State House about 42 kilometers east of Uganda capital Kampala, Dec. 28, 2015.
    FILE - Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, , centre, gestures to delegates attending the Burundi peace talks, at Entebbe State House about 42 kilometers east of Uganda capital Kampala, Dec. 28, 2015.

    The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch earlier this month accused the Ugandan government of intimidating the local media ahead of the February presidential and parliamentary elections.

    In a report, Human Rights Watch said journalists have been suspended under government pressure, and radio stations threatened for hosting opposition members as guests or when panelists expressed views critical of the ruling party.

    Human-rights report called propaganda

    But minister of information and national guidance, Retired Major General Jim Muhwezi, told VOA this month the Human Rights Watch report is nothing but propaganda.

    Muhwezi said freedom of speech in Uganda is the strength of the ruling National Resistance Movement government. He also said the report is laying the groundwork for an after-election complaint because President Museveni will win the February election.

    Kyalya said Museveni feels he’s God or an emperor of Uganda.

    “I really think, one, he’s is definitely too arrogant, and also he has taken on so much power like Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi if I can put it that way. I believe power has gone to his head; he believes he’s a God now, and the Ugandan people are watching him as well,” she said.

    A mini survey conducted by the Uganda Monitor revealed that Ugandans believe Museveni should have appeared in last Friday's presidential debate to show the other candidates vying for his seat in next month’s election that he is still the best leader of the country.

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