Today, in the general chit-chatter of small talk before an interview I was to conduct, my interviewee said something interesting about the elections, both mayoral and presidential. He said that the opponents for the mayoral elections didn’t know the right tricks, implying that these right tricks had been employed for the presidential election. It seemed amusing at the time. But the fact that we can laugh at these statements, statements that represent the underlying corruption of these processes, demonstrates how deep the corruption is and how apathetically it might be accepted. In a correspondence with another Ugandan, currently working in NYC but who had previously been living in Uganda, I found a similarly offhanded comment amidst his communication on other issues; he simply mentioned that he’d never voted because he did not “believe in legitimizing a fraudulent electoral process.”
Whether or not the elections were fair and democratic seems, however, of less importance than that there is no violence. Both of the quotations about ‘confusion’ in my previous two posts suggest that freedom from strife is the primary concern. Both men I quoted concluded that Museveni should win or had won so that there would be no ‘confusion’, aka turmoil or potential violence. An excerpt from the BBC implies the same: “African Union election observers have said the polls in Uganda suffered from severe shortcomings, and cannot be described as free and fair. Other international observers have also criticised the election process, but said it was largely peaceful.” (BBC Online, Feb 24, 2011) This last sentence is telling, both because the reported felt the need to mention that the process was ‘largely’ peaceful, and because he or she used the word ‘but’, implying both that peace was contrary to expectations and that it somehow almost negated the criticisms of injustice.
It seems that Kizza Besigye, Museveni’s main opposition in the race, who received approximately a quarter of the votes, is now calling for peaceful protests where he had at one point threatened riots. I have heard nothing about whether anyone is taking up this call or what form these protests might take.
Yes, of course, peace is critical. And, in a county like Uganda, which has seen its fair share of violence, concern about the possibility of further eruptions of conflict must be ever-present, in order to be ready if it presents and to stave it off. But, perhaps also, for this country that is held in high regard by some for its economic development and stability (at least if one doesn’t count the north), more than a watchful eye should be present; perhaps this eye should be accompanied by a voice less complacent towards lack of fairness and democracy as long as it is peaceful.