Uganda’s 2021 Scientific ElectionsBeing in office for over 30 years, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has implemented limitations on the nation’s 2021 parliamentary elections. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 worldwide, the President has decided to enforce a “scientific election.” The scientific campaign is encouraging to ensure the nation’s safety during the pandemic. With that said, Ugandans have grown increasingly more dubious towards President Museveni over the years. Thus, this election year has erupted anger among citizens, as well as concerns over the potential motives. Here is what you need to know about Uganda’s president and the upcoming election.

Politics in Uganda

Uganda, a presidential republic, has universal suffrage for all citizens over the age of 18. As a multi-party system, Ugandan politics remain democratic. With that said, a 2019 study conducted by a civil action group, Democratic Action and Engagement, stated that the 2021 election may bring unrest amid civilians and authorities. Around 89% of the 450 interviewed stated that they were fearful of the violence the upcoming election may bring. This is due to a handful of issues Ugandans face daily.

Said-issues include a “lack of electoral reform” as stated by VOA News. Electoral reform has been a large concern for Ugandans since 2006. While there have been movements towards reform, citizens are also concerned about security agencies’ presence in partisan politics and tribal unrest.

As mentioned in Democracy in Africa, President Museveni has faced significant opposition for many years. Around 76% of Ugandans live in rural areas. These citizens are less likely to stay up-to-date about political activity and the desired reforms in urban areas. This “winning strategy,” as described by Democracy in Africa, has created a political bias for many years. Considering 2021’s scientific elections, this bias may persist even further given the lack of resources to stay informed in rural areas.

COVID-19 Impact on 2021 Election

As with many worldly events, the global pandemic has impacted Uganda’s parliamentary general election. To keep Ugandans safe from COVID-19, President Museveni has enforced “scientific elections.” Ultimately, Uganda’s 2021 elections will be almost entirely virtual. Citizens will vote for their leaders through radios, TV and other social media sites. This is the currently proposed safest way to endure an election, as large gatherings are not permitted.

While many recognize the importance of social distancing, Ugandans are skeptical about the election’s validity. Specifically, Ugandan politician Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, stated his concerns regarding a scientific election. According to The Observer, Kyagulanyi feels as though normal elections can be held as many other countries have done so safely. As of June 2020, Uganda saw less than 1,000 COVID-19 cases and no deaths. Politicians and citizens alike feel as though a scientific election is unnesscary at this time.

Concerns for a Scientific Election

Utilizing technology for something as important as a general election is inevitably accompanied by questions of the security and validity of the results. In a 2018 article, it mentions the incorporation of technology is done so mostly on the basis of “the fetishization of technology rather than by rigorous assessment of their effectiveness.” Considering the years of opposition against President Museveni and the desire to utilize technology despite effectiveness, perhaps enforcing a scientific election is another mode of creating bias within rural areas.

Senior research fellow Joseph Mukasa Ngubwagye of Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) emphasizes Uganda’s relatively minimal Coronavirus cases. In his own opinion, he believes that the Ugandan election may be executed as normal via masks and social distancing. Ngubwagye’s skepticism corresponds with many Ugandans, especially considering President Museveni’s history of public opposition.

COVID-19 has impacted politics across the globe. With the years of political anger that Ugandans have faced, a 2021 scientific election has proved to only further ignite frustration. Navigating an election during a global pandemic is difficult. However, Uganda may continue to see civilian unrest due to the history of bias. There still is time, though, to reroute the direction of the election year and give the voices back to Ugandans.

Anna Hoban

Photo: Flickr