Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Uganda After February 18th 2011


I was watching UBC’s Good Morning Uganda Show before I came into Kampala today morning and I’m so glad I did. A random caller, someone whose name I did not get, and who I struggled to follow (because he called in speaking Luganda, a language I understand to a point) clarified for me, probably what is on the mind of every Ugandan right now. How will we wake up on Saturday 19, February, 2011? Will we even have had a chance to sleep the night before? What will happen when Uganda’s Electoral Commission led by Dr. Badru Kiggundu, on Sunday 20th February, announces the winner of the Presidential elections as Mr. Yoweri K. Museveni? (Do I hear a scoff about that? Do you actually believe that IPC’s Dr. Kizza Besigye might win the contest? He might, but I cannot fathom Dr. Kiggundu announcing anyone other than Mr. Museveni as the winner. It is just beyond the realm of possibility, even science fiction.) But we all have a sneaking suspicion that if this was a free and fair election, conducted strictly according to the rules, Dr. Besigye might have had a fighting chance in it. It is this suspicion that makes many a Ugandan wonder, what next after Friday, February 18, 2011? Will Dr. Besigye, and his millions of supporters, sit back and let this election go, for the sake of peace in the country? 

The caller on the UBC Good Morning Uganda Show was not replying to that concern directly. His interest was broader. He is probably a father, a husband, an employer or an employee to whom peace means he can continue to provide a living, however meagre, for all those who depend on the sweat of his brow. They are dependants who will, after failing to convince him not to go out and vote, will try to maintain constant phone contact with him, while he is away from home. Urging, pleading with him, after casting his vote, to return home immediately. Not stay and converse with other voters, perhaps ‘guard’ his vote, or simply be a witness. 

In the furnace heat of our paranoia, our fears, our worries, cheek in palm pondering; this caller reminded us listeners and watchers of an essential, a fundamental, something that will not change and we will all be glad it has not changed. This caller appealed for all of us to remember, “Uganda is not ending on February 18. Uganda will still be here after Friday. Vote wisely, vote responsibly, don’t let elections disorganise our country.” 

I have been half hearing that message from all sorts of politicians, who say it in interviews to crouching journalists around a press conference table in a hotel in Kampala and then out of Kampala, at a rally say the exact opposite. I was not paying attention. But somehow when I heard this caller, this common man, almost anonymous, I listened.

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