President Yoweri Museveni has said Uganda’s general election next year will be peaceful, vowing sternly that whoever will attempt to disrupt the process “will fail”.
The upcoming elections, due on January 14 next year, have once again shined a glaring spotlight on Uganda, as voters prepare to go to the polls to elect their next leader.
In the buildup, Museveni, who is seeking re-election as president on the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) ticket, has vehemently underlined that the election will be peaceful “because that is what we fought for”.
“Nobody is going to disturb our elections. Anybody who will try will fail. Let everyone follow the law, then there will be peace,” he said on Friday during the scaled-down national thanksgiving prayers in Entebbe.
During the event held in the lush gardens of the State House, one word that had recurrently rolled off the tongue of speaker after speaker before Museveni, the host of the prayers, stood up to deliver his remarks was ‘peace’.
The gathering laid the foundation for a timely call for a peaceful Uganda, especially at a time when the country is warming up for another general election.
‘Violence breeds violence’
Retired Anglican Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, the guest preacher at the service, was characteristically firm in rallying Ugandans to be instruments of peace, saying “it is possible for us to live in peace with each other”.
“Tribes to tribes, there must be a bridge. Nation to nation, there must be a bridge. We need each other very, very much. It is very difficult to live without each other,” said the 71-year-old prelate, who retired as archbishop in 2012.
Standing majestically before a socially-distanced gathering of high-profile mask-wearing guests, Orombi maintained a firm tone as he pushed for the need for peacemakers in society.
“Where there are no peacemakers, violence is not far away. Violence breeds violence,” he said.
The former archbishop, who led the Church of Uganda for eight years, from 2004 until 2012, did not shy away from revealing that he felt that all political parties should have been represented at Friday’s thanksgiving service as a demonstration of the message of peace albeit political differences.
Museveni agreed, saying he had taken “seriously the advice of Orombi of inviting all political parties”, albeit he was quick to absolve himself, saying it was the organisers of the prayers (IRCU) that should have invited “all shades” of the political system. Nonetheless, the President voiced his willingness to extend an invitation the next time.
Orombi said he believes a peaceful and inclusive election is possible in Uganda today, but only if all Ugandans place the love for their country – patriotism – ahead of their interests.
Ahead of next year’s elections, candidates contesting for various positions at all levels are busy campaigning for the much-anticipated vote.
As usual, the main attention is on the presidential race, which is featuring 11 candidates, including a female contestant, who is among the nine first-timers in the contest.
In the context of the elections, Archbishop emeritus Orombi pointed out that despite political differences, unity is key, and that “Ugandans can choose peace as opposed to violence – let us choose peace”.
“Peace is necessary so that reconciliation and working together is possible. We need each other. We can’t do without each other. (..) Let us have peacemakers to secure a future for our children,” he preached.
‘Let us seek and pursue peace’
Orombi’s was a call similar to that of Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, the Archbishop of Kampala diocese, who was also keen to urge Ugandans “to be God-fearing and peacemakers at all levels”.
“Peace is a very important factor for all of us believers,” said the 67-year-old cleric, who has been at the helm of Kampala Archdiocese since 2006.
Lwanga carried the voice of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) in underlining the need for the recognition of fundamental rights as well as the need for “us to seek peace and pursue it”.
“Actions based on common good must form the bedrock of politics and that people must take everyone as their equal,” said Lwanga.
“Let us ask God for His pardon for all the mistakes that we have made in our lives.”
Among those who attended Friday’s thanksgiving service were religious leaders, diplomatic representatives, Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, and Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa.
Nankabirwa particularly took a swipe at Opposition candidates who are campaigning while not observing the standard operating procedures (SOPs) put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
She spoke of the dilemma in which some of them who are also contesting for political positions find themselves in on the campaign trail, which she said has forced some members of her party (NRM) to “break the ceiling” just to prove to the Opposition that they, too, have many supporters.
Museveni said they warned Ugandans from the beginning to observe the SOPs, but “it became a contentious issue”, resulting into people dying “unncessarily.”
Responding to the calls for peace as opposed to violence, the President said his government condemned the recent violence that led to scores of deaths during riots triggered by the arrest of National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi on November 18.
“From the report I received, 54 people died and 32 were rioters. The other 22 were caught by stray bullets. Now I want an analysis of the stray bullets – person by person.
“We condemned the violence.
“We are also not going to tolerate criminals attacking people, destroying property, and derobing women. I have not heard people condemning that,” said Museveni, vowing that an audit into who caused the violence must be done, incident by incident.