REGIONAL WEEKENDER

Regional states go to polls but democracy 'can't breathe'

NRM party has nominated Museveni to extend his rule to 40 years.

In Summary

• Uganda and Tanzania have started their preparations, with respective parties nominating their presidential candidates amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

•  Somalia is yet to decide on when and how to conduct the poll —  a sensitive and tough nut to crack — while Ethiopia has postponed its August elections 

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At least four countries are expected to hold polls this year or 2021 in the East African region. 

Uganda and Tanzania have started preparations, with respective parties nominating their presidential candidates amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Somalia is yet to decide on when and how to conduct the poll —  a sensitive and tough nut to crack — while Ethiopia has postponed its August-scheduled elections by nine to 12 months.

 

Amidst the politics is the realisation that however much electoral democracy is criticised in Kenya, its neighbours still have a long way to go.

For instance, when was the last time an opposition presidential candidate was arrested and detained in Kenya?

Well Uganda’s Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change told a campaign rally in November 2015 that he had been arrested 43 times since 2000.

The results of the 2016 election were announced as Besigye was cooling his heels in police custody, and was at one point arrested thrice in a week. Outright intimidation.

Youthful MP Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, aka Bobi Wine, is now a target since he declared interest in removing President Yoweri Museveni from office. In 2018, he was charged with treason alongside 32 other politicians following campaign violence. He was reportedly tortured and frustrated from seeking medication abroad.

NRM party has nominated Museveni to extend his rule to 40 years. He is likely to face a united front by Besigye’s FDC and Bobi Wine’s People Power, who on June 15 announced a strategy for joint political activities under the United Forces of Change.             

It's no different in Tanzania.

 

On Tuesday, Tanzania's main opposition party Chadema endorsed national vice chairman Tundu Lissu as its presidential candidate for the October 28 polls. 

But it has not, and will not, be easy for Lissu.

He returned home on July 27 from Belgium, where he was receiving treatment after surviving an assassination attempt on September 7, 2017, in Dodoma. Notably, multiparty democracy was reinstated in Tanzania in 1992, same year as in Kenya.

Lissu has alleged the country’s National Electoral Commission has been backing the ruling CCM through its planning, structures, and appointing its members as returning officers.

ACT Wazalendo nominated Ben Membe to also vie for the presidency.

As the campaigns begin, Pombe Magufuli’s government is introducing new laws.

Organising, planning or even supporting any form of protest online is now illegal. Authorities have cracked down on media, civil society and government critics.

Activists say new rules are infringing on people's freedom of expression.

VOA journalist Yassin Wardere says while Magufuli has initiated major infrastructure projects and led an intensified war on corruption, he has also been criticised for cracking down on the opposition and the press.

In Somalia, the division on whether to postpone the 2020 October elections claimed the job of Prime Minister Hassan Khaire. He was opposed to the extension of President Mohamed Farmaajo’s term.

As MPs voted on the motion against him in Mogadishu, Khaire was on his way from Dhusamareb, the capital of Galmudug, where he had attended a conference on elections plan and reached a deal with federal states leaders.

But MPs accused him of failing on the plan, delaying an election and failing to implement a constitutional review programme.

European Union High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell said the developments in Somalia entailed "a serious disrespect for the constitutional foundations, and represent a setback for the country and the confidence of the EU in the progress of Somalia", which they have been investing in.