On February 13th The Hague Peace Projects in collaboration with the Ugandan Diaspora, organized a debate on the Ugandan general elections on February 18th 2016. The debate emphasized the effect of the elections in Uganda and its overall role on the peace-building process in the Great Lakes region. Different diaspora from the Great Lakes region, as well as professionals ,participated in the debate to share opinions on the past electoral activities in Uganda and their relation to the upcoming elections. Although the opinions were dived, every participant in the debate emphasized the aim of peaceful elections in Uganda.
The four speakers stressed that Uganda has not faced a peaceful transition of power since Uganda’s independency was established in the twentieth century. Moses Atocon Atyekwo, a blogger from Power 10, explained that the general elections in Uganda usually occur along with demonstrations and protests under the risk of state violence varying from rubber bullets to tear gas. Because the elections have always been plagued by force and in breach with the law, the Ugandan community usually demonstrates for free and fair elections.
Josh Maiyo, a PHD candidate at VU specialized in political economy of development highlighted the key features of the 2016 election in Uganda. He explained: the incumbent president Museveni is facing serious competition from political opponents for the first time in history. According to him, Museveni’s argument to maintain his presidency is related to the Uganda-Tanzania War. Since the current voting generation didn’t witnessed this combat up-close he expects that the new generation is less receptive of this argument. Kenneth Muyingo, representative of the Ugandan Community Netherlands, expressed the need for Museveni to be replaced. He considered Museveni to be a dangerous key player in the Great Lakes region and thus unable to contribute to the aim of peace-building in the region.
On the other hand, Arne Doornebal a former Africa correspondent stressed the difficulties of transition of powers in Uganda. Arne mentioned the extensive role of Museveni in Uganda, inter alia in the media and in the military. This vision was also shared by other participants in the debate: “Uganda has not an army, the army has Uganda.” According to the some of the attendees, originating from different neighboring countries of Uganda, a positive effect of the army on peace in the region is highly doubtful. For example, the International Court of Justice deemed Uganda to compensate $10 billion the plundering of natural recourses in DR Congo between 1998 and 2003. In conclusion it can be said that the upcoming elections in Uganda are greatly important for the country but also for Uganda’s mediating role in the Great Lakes region.