Ugandans head to the polls Thursday to cast ballots for the country’s next president. Musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine is the most prominent of 11 candidates challenging President Yoweri Museveni, who has led the country for nearly 35 years.
Stability, security and peace have been President Museveni’s key selling points to Ugandan voters with a campaign themed, “Secure your future.”
Bobi Wine, on the other hand, has directed his campaign at young voters, promising freedom from Museveni’s heavy-handed rule, and pledging to create five million jobs should he assume power.
Sarah Birete, a pro-democracy political activist, says for many Ugandans, these elections are not about economic issues, but about redeeming the soul of the nation.
“If you see Ugandans coming on the streets, they are simply saying they are tired of people that have hijacked the state,” she said. “We have rising levels of impunity by duty bearers. These are an example of things that have made citizens of this country angry and hungry for change. So, it’s not about issues that this candidate is speaking. Well, no. Can we have our country back, then we shall redefine how we will be governed.”
Political analyst Morrison Rwakakamba believes many Ugandans, especially the elderly and women, still see Museveni as the commander-in-chief who will ensure peace and stability.
“In this crowd of presidential contenders, Bobi Wine has the charisma. He has more star power especially because of his music to galvanize young people. But there’s nothing new that in my view he’s saying. But at the national level, President Museveni remains much stronger, especially because of the constituency of the Ugandans who have had experience before, of instability,” said Rwakakamba.
Ordinary Ugandans such as Ibrahim Walugembe agree that while Wine is appealing to them, they still would like a peaceful and stable country.
Walugembe says the person who has talked about issues that affect him has been the president, his excellency. Walugembe adds that even if the old man has been able to achieve much, he should retire, so Uganda can get a new leader, because it’s been such a long time.
With a population of close to 42 million, about 70 percent are young Ugandans struggling to survive.
Motorcyclist Tamale Juma says he believes Wine is the only leader who will deliver the peace they desire.
Tamale says, “We don’t have any peace in this country” and that “because we are so poor, we work under a lot of hardships with no medicine in hospitals. The education standard is so low.” He also says the poverty level is high and because of that, people would like to see a new leader. Tamale says Museveni has failed for the 35 years he has been in power, adding, “We want to see if Bobi Wine will bring us better development.”
About 17.6 million Ugandans are eligible to vote in Thursday’s election.
Polling begins Thursday at 6:00 a.m. local time, ending at 4 p.m. According to the electoral commission, all 134 districts in Uganda have received polling materials.
Source: Voice of America