Uganda goes to the polls

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KAMPALA - Millions of Uganda will tomorrow, 18, February 2016, go the polls to vote in the country’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

The country’s fifth election since moving to a multiparty dispensation in 1996, will see eight presidential candidates who include the incumbent, President Yoweri K. Museveni of the National Resistance Movement; Dr. Kizza Besigye, Forum for Democratic Change; Amama Mbabazi, Go Forward; Dr. Abed Bwanika, People Development Party; Major Benon Biraro, Farmers’ Party; Maureen Kyalya and Elton J. Mabirizi both independent candidates, contend for the top seat of the country.

The eight candidates have spent the last two months on the campaign trail sharing their manifestos with Ugandans and addressing key issues including unemployment, a main concern for the youth who make up over 60% of the country’s population, making it one of the highest in the world. Other issues addressed include the agricultural sector, the health sector and the energy sector particularly the management of the oil in the country.

As part of efforts to ensure that all the candidates got an equal platform to share their visions for the country, the United Nations through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) led electoral support to Uganda enabled them to take part in two Presidential Debates.

The two debates held on 15th January 2016 and 13th February 2016 respectively, have been described as historic, not just for providing an equal platform but also for pulling both local and global crowds, making it the first time that millions of viewers (both on television and online) have had an opportunity to watch the candidates present their visions for the country in one shared space.

They were organised by UNDP’s key partners National Consultative Forum (NCF), The Elders Forum of Uganda (TEFU) and the Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) and covered topics on domestic concerns including peace, trade, health, education and health for the first debate, the second peered into the country’s international relations and foreign.

Speaking about the debates, the UNDP Country Director, Ms. Almaz Gebru, called on Ugandans to carry on the healthy engagement and show of tolerance throughout the election season which runs from 18th February to 10 March 2016.

“In the same spirit and in line with Sustainable Development Goal 16 “promote peaceful and inclusive societies, provide access to justice for all and build effective and inclusive institutions at all levels,” let me take this opportunity to encourage all Ugandans to continue to work together for a Peaceful and Violence-Free 2016 Election,” Ms. Gebru said.

UNDP support which is being delivered in three phases - pre-election, during and post-election, has also built the capacities of the key partners noted above to ensure a peacefully and violence free 2016 election.

The National Electoral Commission for example was enabled to complete its 2016 election masterplan and retain independent experts in the areas of voter education, media and public relations, conflict prevention and gender. While TEFU, NCF and IRCU have been equipped as impartial spaces for dialogue to provide mediation and collaborative spaces for interparty dialogue in case of issues arising before and after the elections.

UNDP calls on all Ugandans to choose peace during the entire election season and remains fully committed to empowering lives and building a resilient Uganda.

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