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Grappling in the dark?

We can all affirm that the months that ended 2020 and began 2021 were quite eventful.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to months of lock down intended to minimise the spread of the virus. However, as the socio-economic and political situation became challenging, the lockdown was lifted up in many parts of the world including Uganda. The situation had created limitations to community interactions. The opening up of international boundaries basically culminated into more community infections of the COVID-19 virus. We are locked in between the rock and the wall.

In this context Ugandans went to polls in early January 2021.

In this context Ugandans went to polls in early January 2021.  Couldn’t the elections be postponed until the COVID-19 vaccine is found? Contenders and proponents of justice voiced their plea but to no avail of the government in power. Questions included: What about the technicalities that are enshrined in the Constitution in case of a state of emergency situation? Who would be the losers and and would transition be at the expense of remedying the spread of the COVID-19 virus? Who would safeguard and protect the lives of the citizens during the voting process?

Election campaigns were supposed to be conducted “scientifically” or virtually to address safety.  The Electoral Commission was supposed to set up the schedule for the political aspirants conducting campaigns in all districts in Uganda with minimal human interactions. Less than 40% of the adults with voting rights in Uganda have such innovation.  How practical was this going to be given the human interaction and selfishness of the politicians conversing to be voted for political offices? 

Access to social media was curtailed by the government

It all ended in a contradictory mess of actual outcomes versus the proposed ideals. Election campaigns escalated the community infections of the COVID-19 virus. The country has registered more deaths during the campaigns than before. Several dear friends have succumbed to the deadly virus. These included Bishop Alphonse Wathokudi of the Diocese of Nebbi with whom World Renew had a long term partnership since 1982. The worst is projected to happen as our health systems capacity is overstretched with the influx of COVID-19 cases.

During and after the voting processes, access to social media was curtailed by the government to alleviate spread of falsehood information that could potentially trigger violence. The ultimate announcement of results was solely assigned to the Electoral Commission. 

“He who owns the axe, has the right control over the mantle.”

Amazingly the elections were quiet and calm but not devoid of fear engulfing the population. Of course the armed personnel from all departments were deployed everywhere to curb down any potential interruptions, riots and expression of discontent about the election results. There was limited space to speak up and out.

As the African saying goes, “He who owns the axe, has the right control over the mantle.” This implies the drivers to democratic functionality have the ultimate responsibility to decide the direction and manner in which it must be conducted. As part of the journey, over 69 people lost their lives while protesting the arrest and detention of one of the aspiring presidential candidates. Many were left injured and ailing in the ill-equipped hospitals because of this protest.

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12).  As I reflect on the injustices and difficulties of the Ugandan election I hold onto this hope in a world that is hurting and grappling in darkness due to the prevailing injustices.

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