Uganda is headed for another contested general elections that will renew President Museveni’s 30 years hold on power.
He came to power after a military takeover in 1986 and immediately embarked on destroying democratic governance.
He banned political parties and instituted a military rule for the first ten years.
The 1995 new constitution stipulated two five year terms for an elected president.
In 1996, Museveni contested for the presidency under his regime political suspension and was declared the winner.
In 2001, he contested again under the same arrangement and was declared the winner.
At the end of his constitutional term limit in 2005, he amended the constitution by removing the term limits in 2006, political parties were allowed to compete against him and still he was declared the winner.
In 2011, he contested under a sham multiparty arrangement and was declared the winner.
He is again seeking to be reelected in February 2016.
In all the previous, opposition has always contested his victory saying it was delivered through pre-ticked vote stuffing, voter bribery, violence and intimidation by his personal security machinery.
The opposition has also accused the regime of being fused in the state apparatus like the army, Police, intelligence services, public service, local government structures, judiciary, legislature, Electoral Commission and others.
There is fear among critics that Museveni is in the process of formally incorporating the civil society, religious, and traditional institutions into his regime structures.
The constitution, as Amama Mbabazi has always pointed out, gives Museveni all the powers-to appoint, promote, transfer and dismiss any of the public servants thus guaranteeing their personal loyalty.
The most recent example is when he sacked his Prime Minister and regime Secretary General [Mbabazi] over political disagreements rather than improving service delivery.
He has powers of restructuring existing and even creating new local government structures to suit his designs.
He creates new districts and constituencies where there is a regime stronghold and leaving intact those that are dominated by the opposition in order to increase the number of Members of Parliament.
He retains exclusive powers to determine the geographical distribution of the national cake.
He openly tells voters from opposition strongholds that they need to learn to ‘vote wisely’ if they are to benefit in terms of development.
The state curtails opposition political activities while NRM, according to opposition, uses state resources to traverse the country in order to promote Museveni’s candidature [NRM has always denied this allegation].
Opposition also accuses Museveni of out rightly bribing voters through cash handouts in proportions of hundreds of millions of tax payer’s money.
In some cases, Museveni has been cited in empty pledges to groups of voters thus the 300 billion shilling State House budget.
Museveni’s police chief, Kale Kayihura, recently warned television stations against giving opposition politicians coverage and thus denying opposition candidates’ access to media and coverage while the president exclusively enjoys the same to reach the masses.
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is also accused of being used by the regime to curtail through blackmail the privately owned media houses that dare give access and coverage to the opposition.
The president is also accused of exclusively using security forces, regime cadres and intelligence services to blackmail, intimidate, harass, arrest, detain, and maliciously prosecute all those with dissenting political opinion.
The District Commissioner of Lira district recently told WBS TV’s Timothy Ssebasi that Museveni directed them not to teargas opposition members during their campaign.
State security forces and regime structures like the Electoral Commission, intelligence services, district Commissioners, regime cadres, local government officials etc help him through intimidation and bribery of voters, opposition polling agents, and pre-ticked ballot peppers, say critics.
Opposition further alleges that once the rigging machinery has executed its role at the polling station, sub county, constituency and district, then the regime cadres at the Electoral Commission head office simply do the announcing of Museveni as the winner.
The same race rigging committee (earlier mentioned by Gen. David Ssejusa) also determines who is to win and by how much among the opposition contenders at the constituency and local government levels.
Its only in a few isolated cases that the opposition can determine the victory of its candidates.
Kampala city Mayor won after a repeat of the previously rigged elections after the rigging machinery was overwhelmed by the opposition supporters and vote guarding but still Erias Lukwago was refused access to the Mayor’s office.
Courts of law gave an order for his reinstatement but the regime simply ignored it.
A law was even formulated to ensure the Mayor of Kampala city is selected instead of being democratically elected through adult suffrage.
This is because Kampala City is a strong opposition candidate who should be penalised by disfranchisement.
Even where the opposition has won in parliamentary by-elections, its because opposition bigwigs have come out to monitor the polls and guard the votes thus the rigging machine could neither intimidate nor bribe them.
For the February 2016 general elections, the rigging started immediately after the last elections in 2011.
Unlike the previous elections, this time round even the voter’s register was prepared by the army through the National ID security project.
However, some sections of the opposition are telling voters that this time ‘its not business as usual’.
They are encouraging their supporters not to leave the polling station after they will have cast their vote in February 2016 in order to guard the vote.
Some other opposition leaders who have fallen out with Museveni have been described as the ones who know the tactics that the regime has been using to rig the elections.
The truth is that there are secret tactics that the regime uses to rig the elections other than what has been outlined above.
What is not publicly known is the company that prints the dextral ballot papers that are then pre-ticked and stuffed into ballot boxes.
During the February 2016 general elections the regime will issue a decree on the eve of the polling day to the effect that it’s illegal for anyone to stay around the polling station after casting his/her vote and will be required to keep in their homes.
There will be a heavy deployment of security forces on every inch of the country.
This time the force has been boosted by tens of thousands of regime militias referred to as Crime Preventers.
The opposition polling agents will be intimidated and in some cases out rightly bribed into giving in to the regime’s schemes while the stubborn ones will either be framed and arrested or kidnapped.
The opposition tally centre will be electronically monitored and eventually raises and personnel and equipment dispersed.
Both the last minute decree and the dismantling of the vote tally centre will deal a finally blow to the opposition.
After the winner is announced, the opposition will be crying foul while the international community will commend Uganda for holding a peaceful election exercise.
Therefore, the February 2016 general elections will be “as it was, it is still the same, and it shall be so”.
Sarah Nalukenge, the author, is a social and political commentator