Ugandan elections, a generational issue

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The stakes are high as millions of Ugandans out of 18,103,603 registered voters line up to vote in Thursday’s historic general election.There has been tension ahead of the vote with opposition supporters who clashed with security forces, after the electoral commission banned gatherings, amid new fears about the spread of the coronavirus. The vote for the presidency between veteran Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986 and Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, also known by his artist name Bobi Wine, is an important issue. The rift between Museveni, 76, and Wine, 38, turned these election contests into a generational competition between the old guard and a young generation of new politicians who were toddlers the last time change happened in Uganda. Many analysts believe that Museveni represents all that is old in Uganda, a country he has dominated since coming to power after a “bush war” that overthrew the independence leader Milton Obote. Prior to Museveni’s ascension to the presidency, Uganda had been mired in a seemingly endless cycle of political upheaval, including the chaotic eight years under military dictator Idi Amin, who overthrew Obote in 1971. After ousting Obote ‘Amin in 1979, Obote had returned to the presidency, but the vestiges of instability, corruption and bad governance were “stubborn spots” the system struggled to erase. A political vacuum was there, which needed to be filled when Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) took power, promising a radical break from the past. After being elected to four five-year terms since Uganda adopted democracy in the mid-1990s, Museveni is running for president again. During his nearly 35-year reign in Ugandan politics, Museveni has rubbed shoulders with six presidents of the United States and if he wins a fifth term he will work with Joe Biden, the new occupant of the White House. He promised to accept the result of the vote, whatever the orientation. Museveni is widely credited with ruling Uganda for long periods of stability, but has been criticized for failed economic policies, repression of political opponents, corruption and a culture of political patronage. A recent study by privacy firm Surfshark suggests that Uganda is the 15th African country to have restricted access to social media, due to elections since 2015. An internet blackout was observed on the day. polls in Uganda, where long lines outside polling stations were noted early Thursday. Over the past five years, Burundi, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Togo, Tanzania, Benin, DRC, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania and Sierra Leone also restricted access to social media due to elections, according to the same study. The ‘New Wine’ factor in Ugandan politics Museveni’s main challenger for the presidency in 2021 has been touted as a breath of fresh air, ‘a new wine in the old bottle of Ugandan politics’. Bobi Wine, a pop star turned politician and congressman is seen as the direct antithesis of Museveni, not only generationally, but in many ways as well. The young man who presents the incumbent president with his toughest electoral challenge in decades has a raw energy that easily identifies with the youth with whom he shares the same generation. He is a highly provocative Wine who seems far from intimidated, despite being the victim of brutal repression, harassment, arrests and reported near misses in his life in the months and weeks leading up to the election day. 20th of at least 33 siblings in a polygamous household, Wine’s humble beginnings seem to give him inspiration to do the unimaginable – uprooting Museveni, a man who came to power, when Bobi was only two barely years old. “This is enough to indicate that Museveni has been here longer than necessary. The babies of the NRM’s early years are all grown up now and can run the country’s affairs, so it’s time for Museveni to step off the scene, ”said a supporter of the National Unity Platform, the party led by Wine. Wine has pledged work for the army of unemployed Ugandan youth and the fight against poverty, while Museveni has pledged to fight corruption and restart a struggling economy, if elected. But there is more to this election than just promises and vows – it’s a generational question. According to the government’s own estimates, four out of six young people are unemployed without a job, a high figure for a country with the youngest population in Africa, with ¾ of the population under 30 years of age. This can be crucial in the outcome of this generational competition.

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