Uganda goes to the polls today in an election that is likely to see President Yoweri Museveni returned for a sixth term.
There are a number of opposition parties. Robert Kyagulanyi – known as Bobi Wine – heads the leading challenger, the National Unity Party.
Voters today will be choosing a president and members of parliament.
Economics and power
The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) has stated its commitment to providing economic growth and development. The part has set out plans to create jobs, accelerate industrialisation and tackle investment problems.
Campaigning under the slogan “securing your future”, the NRM identified issues including electricity provision and transportation as slowing the economy.
Companies made oil discoveries in the Lake Albert region in 2005-06 and Total recently bought out its partner Tullow Oil. The French company had hoped to reach final investment decision (FID) on the Tilenga field by the end of 2020 but this has been pushed back.
In the NRM’s manifesto, the party said it was committed to the development of hydrocarbons and was taking “cautious steps”.
The government has backed plans for the Albertine Graben refinery. The environmental social impact assessment (ESIA) should be completed by September 2021.
It has also worked with Tanzania on the plans for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). Furthermore, the government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Tanzania in 2018 on a pipeline that would carry gas into Uganda.
Among plans for the future, the manifesto said it would seek to secure funding for Uganda National Oil Co.’s (UNOC) equity investments in various projects. These included the refinery, EACOP and the Kampala Storage Terminal (KST).
Uganda has shortlisted four companies for blocks in the second round, the New Vision newspaper reported on January 11. The government has chosen UNOC, PetroAfik Energy Resources East Africa, Total E&P Activités Pétrolières and DGR Global, from a total of eight original bidders.
The electric bottleneck
The NRM manifesto also highlighted progress in the power space. The share of Ugandans with access to electricity has reached 51%, from both on- and offgrid.
The party will act to cut the cost of power, it said, and make it more reliable particularly for industrial uses. It aims to provide power to manufacturers at a cost of $0.05 per unit, down from $0.087 currently. The manifesto said it would cut costs by tackling the “mistake of the expensive financing” at the Bujagali hydropower project.
While the NRM has talked about improving the economy, there are allegations that the party is taking additional steps in order to ensure it retains power. The opposition has complained that government security forces have disrupted meetings and demonstrations unfairly.
The police have arrested opposition leader Wine a number of times during the election season, often for allegedly breaking COVID-19 rules prohibiting gatherings. Wine has complained that the police have tried to assassinate him.
Wine filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) last week, accusing the government of human rights abuses and violence.
The US embassy issued a statement on January 13 saying it was dropping plans for diplomatic observation of the elections. Uganda has denied more than 75% of the US observer accreditations. The embassy said it would not be possible to observe the vote meaningfully.
“Absent the robust participation of observers, particularly Ugandan observers who are answerable to their fellow citizens, Uganda’s elections will lack the accountability, transparency and confidence that observer missions provide,” the embassy said.
Facebook and Twitter have also acted recently to remove accounts suspected of co-ordination with the ruling party. The government responded on January 13 by blocking a number of social media sites, including Facebook.
The government shut down internet access on the evening of January 13.
“There’s no way anyone can come here and … decide who is good and who is bad,” Museveni said, announcing the crackdown on social media. “We cannot tolerate this arrogance.”