Uganda set to vote

Political activity heightened in East Africa as over 15 million Ugandans go to the ballot on Feb. 18th, with neighboring Kenya launching a massive voter registration exercise ahead of the 2017 general election.

Uganda’s third multi-party election since the introduction of multi-party politics in 2005 has attracted 8 presidential candidates--among them the incumbent Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM).The other candidates are Abed Bwanika of People’s Development Party (PDP), Benon Biraaro of Uganda Farmers Party (UFP), Amama Mbaabazi of Go Forward, and Dr.

Kizza Besigye, who is vying on a Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) ticket. Venacious Baryamureeba, Faith Kyala, and Mabirizi Joseph are seeking the presidential seat as independent candidates.

President Museveni (who has been at the helm for 30 years) will be seeking to defend his position for the 7th time in a country that has no limits on presidential candidates. Dr. Besigye (Museveni’s fiercest rival) has unsuccessfully sought three times to defeat the incumbent.

Opposition leader arrested in Kampala

BBC quoted witnesses who said that police used teargas to disperse his supporters with reports from Kampala intimating that Besigye was held at a police station in Nagalama and later escorted to his residence.

Dr. Kizza Besigye’s arrest come hours after President Kaguta Museveni stated during the last televised presidential debate ahead of the Thursday poll that Uganda will have a peaceful election.

Voter registration kicks off in Kenya

Meanwhile, Kenya launched a national voter registration exercise ahead of 5th multi-party election, and second under the new constitution which was promulgated in 2010.

The one-month voter registration exercise targeted to register over 3 million new voters has attracted criticism from a section of opposing political coalitions, blaming the country’s Independent Electoral Commission for favoring the ruling Jubilee coalition’s distribution of registration equipment. The electoral commission hopes to register about 8 million voters by the time elections are held in August 2017 and has urged policians to mobilize elligible unregistered voters to register during the ongoing exercise.

The incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee coalition, Former Prime Minister and the opposition CORD coalition leader Raila Odinga, and Musalia Mudavadi of the Amani National Congress (ANC) have already declared their interest in the presidential seat in Kenya’s August 2017 general election.

East Africa is a major tourism, business, and communication hub whose political processes attract global attention. Uganda has never had a peaceful transition, while Kenya has experienced violent elections. In 2007, skirmishes in Kenya left many dead and others homeless. The 2013 election was relatively peaceful but heavily disputed.