Uganda's 18-year wait for election may stretch into yet another year

Uganda's elections -- the first for 18 years -- are not likely to be held as promised on Sept. 30, and are more likely to be held at the end of this year, or early next.

That is the opinion of some diplomatic observers in East Africa at the present time.

Dr. Milton Obote, Uganda's former president and a leading presidential candidate this time, expressed doubts last week that preparations would be completed in time. Other leading figures, such as Yoweri Museveni, of the Uganda Patriotic Front, have agreed. Mr. Museveni said it would be dangerous to hold elections without the necessary organization in place.

Sources in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, say that the security situation still is too bad to contemplate elections. "They would develop into battles, and there are not the police or troops to keep order," said one diplomat.

Political rallies recently have been the scene of violence and intimidation. Several persons have been killed. Residents of Kampala say there is still gunfire at night, making it dangerous to move about after dark.

Moreover, it would be impossible to hold elections in famine-stricken Karamoja Province, where the hungry are dying every day and even the United Nations has suspended relief aid because of attacks by marauders on their food convoys.

Details of election organization show that government preparations are in their infancy. Some 30,000 ballot boxes would be used, and they have not even been ordered. Registration of voters has not been completed, or electoral lists dawn up. Few polling stations have been set up, and there are not enough trained electoral officers. Vehicles are in short supply. The law still has to be changed to lower the voting age from 21 to 18.

It now has been agreed to invite Commonwealth observers to oversee the elections, but there is no evidence that any countries have bee approached to send teams.

A vital decision yet to be made by the Uganda's military government is whether presidential and parliamentary elections are to be held simultaneously.

Above all, the general political climate in Uganda is not stable enough for elections of this kind to be held.

A strange, slightly unreal political lawsuit is taking place in Kampala, the outcome of which can have little bearing on the course of events. This is a civil challenging of the ousting of President Yusufu Lule from power in June last year. Professor Lule, the first president after the fall of Idi Amin, is in exile, after having been refused the right to go back to run for election.

The case is being heard by five high court judges sitting as a constitutional court. It was brought by the leader of the Democratic Party, Paul Semogerere, and others, his argument being that there was no provision in the liberation constitution to remove a head of state.

Since Mr. Lule there have been two governments, that of Godfrey Binaisa (who was also removed) and the military commission of Paulo Muwanga, now in power.

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