Ugandans are preparing to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections on Thursday, after candidates concluded their campaigns Tuesday. Some voters say peace and stability are most important for them, while others want change and a new regime.
Lining the streets of Kampala, blue and yellow campaign posters compete for space on billboards, walls, and t-shirts. Blue represents the Forum for Democratic Change party of main opposition candidate Kizza Besigye, while yellow is synonymous with the National Resistance Movement party of incumbent Yoweri Museveni.
The two men are the top contenders competing for Uganda’s presidency, along with six other candidates.
The candidate considered to be in third place is Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister to Museveni who is running as an independent.
What matters to voters
Joanitta Sitenda, a 40 year-old Kampala resident, says she remembers life in the 1980s, when the Ugandan Bush War engulfed her country. For her, peace and stability are most important in how she votes. “NRM, I like it, it’s my party. It has given us peace, we have been able to get skills, it has enlightened us, in a lot of things,” she said.
“Peace” is a common refrain cited by those supporting the NRM. Older supporters remember war and do not want a return of conflict, while younger ones, like Isaac Dungu, are influenced by the experiences of their elders.
“My father was in prison, was in prison of the previous president, Obote, so when Museveni came into power, he released him from prison, so all our family is a supporter of President Museveni,” Dungu explained.
Other voters, especially younger ones, say they are more concerned with how their country is faring in terms of more current issues, like healthcare, education and employment.
Uganda’s youth are a difficult-to-ignore demographic. Out of a population of about 38 million people, 50 percent of the population is under the age of 16, and another 25 percent is between the ages of 16 and 30.
Loamula Muhindo is a young FDC supporter who is frustrated by what she said are a lack of opportunities in Uganda.
“We have a job problem, there are no jobs. I am working at a building, as a painter, as a builder, but I’m not destined to work there because I’ve got some qualifications, I can work somewhere in the office,” she said. “So maybe when President Besigye comes into power, I can get a chance.”
FDC supporter Abbey Segujja said it is time for 71-year-old Museveni to step down as president after his 30 years in office, and enjoy his golden years.
“We are ready to take care of President Museveni, so he can sit back and relax at his home. We will take the juices, we will take the fruit to his house. Let him rest, because he’s a grandpa now. He’s very old for the nation,” he said.
Disturbance at rally
On Monday, Besigye was on his way to a rally when police stopped his convoy and detained him, saying he was conducting rallies in the off-limits central business district. Besigye was released that afternoon, but supporters got into altercations with police as they waited near Makerere University for their candidate to continue his campaign. Supporters threw stones and police fired tear gas into the crowd.
Both candidates finished their campaigns on Tuesday, as thousands of Ugandans came out to support them at various rallies around Kampala.
Besigye has run against Museveni three times before, losing each time amid accusations that the president’s supporters rigged the vote and intimidated his opponents.