Makerere University History don, Prof. Mwambutsya Ndebesa has today weighed in on the move by the independent Electoral Commission (EC) to hold scientific campaigns ahead of the 2021 General Elections.
Communicating via Facebook, Ndebesa opposed this development saying it sucks the air out of popular democracy that the National Resistance Movement (NRM) regime purports to stand for.
“The scientific campaign is elitist and betrays the democratic value of popular masses and democracy that the NRM purports to believe in. In short, the norm behind the scientific campaign is elitism,” Ndebesa says.
Contrary to EC’s stance, he argued that the electoral democracy campaigns are not only about the interaction of ideas but also about the interaction of citizens.
Justifying his opinion, Ndebesa pointed out that in most cases masses select their choices on the basis of which people the candidate associates with and how he/she relates with the voters.
“Voters need to test the emotional intelligence of the candidates. Voters need to test the relational intelligence of the candidate. To see whom he/she associates with and whom he/she avoids,” he argued.
Furthermore, Ndebesa said that to a considerable extent, digitalizing campaigns might prevent masses from fully expressing themselves.
“Candidate centric campaigns in the media deprive voters opportunity to engage in ‘Kakuyege’, mobilizing people to go and attend a rally, distribute campaign materials etc,” he added.
Amid all these factors, Ndebesa says that the incoming campaigns are merely “neither scientific nor a campaign” and “talk centric and not voter centric” in the actual sense.
Bearing this in mind, Ndebesa wants the next general elections extended by a year so that masses can freely express themselves without fear of catching or spreading the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Ndebesa’s words come on the heels of a similar call by Opposition leaning youths.
Addressing the media on Friday, June 26, 2020, youths led by Abubaker Matanda warned that holding scientific campaigns would impede disabled youngsters from taking part in the process.
“The road map lacks inclusivity on the side of the youth with disabilities like the deaf and blind. That means that these categories of disabled people can neither contest nor vote meaningfully,” the communiqué stated.
They also pointed out that the contestants across the board are likely to overwhelm the available radio stations and there is no way Uganda Communications Commission can compel owners to accord every one talking time.
However, they warned that these machinations by the electoral body could be a ploy to deny Ugandans a decent election.
“Treat this election as a normal election rather than hiding behind ‘science’ to deny Ugandans an inclusive, free and fair election,” they implored.
The press conference was attended by Francis Zzake of People Power, Ssembajwe Paul of Democratic Party (DP), and Forum for Democratic Change’s Mulindwa Lubega Walid among many others.