VETERAN politician Vernon Johnson Mwaanga says African leaders’ insatiable appetite to remain in power at all costs has become a curse to the continent.

Commenting on Uganda elections, where there was an internent shut down and the killing and intimidation of opposition supporters in an interview, Mwaanga said the image of African countries had suffered irreversibly due to the manner election campaigns were being conducted.

“I have witnessed first hand, how election campaigns are conducted and how the Electoral Process works.The image of African countries in the eyes of the world, has suffered irreversibly. The insatiable appetite of African leaders to remain in power at any and all costs, has become Africa’s curse. I have been a chief election observer in Uganda for an international organisation in the past. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, came into power 35 years ago, after an armed struggle to remove Idi Amin Dada, who had overthrown the elected government of President Milton Obote. Sooner, rather than later, cracks began to appear in his relationship with the Western world, because of his autocratic rule and style of leadership. He began to severely restrict operating space for those who were opposed to his rule and used the police and army to suppress his citizens,” Mwaanga said.

Mwaanga said it was evident that during the campaigns, opposition parties were not given an even playing field.

He added that it was strange that the African Union, the East African Community and the Great Lakes Region had been silent on the matter.

“There are many dastardly police actions, against opposing political party leaders and their supporters. In the election campaigns, which have just ended, Bobi Wine, who offered one of the greatest challenges to Museveni, has been under constant harassment, intimidation and constant arrests by security forces everywhere he went to campaign, bogusly using selectively applied COVID-19 protocols, to prevent the youthful popular Ugandan musician from addressing his supporters. His family and wife in particular, has been singled out for police harassment and intimidation. This election did not give the opposition parties any semblance of an even playing field,” Mwaanga said.

“The African Union, the East African Community and the Great Lakes Region, have been conspicuously silent. It took the Americans and other European Countries, who have raised the alarm of election consciousness. The credibility of international election observers, has been severely dented after what happened in Kenya and Malawi, where courts of law, established beyond any reasonable doubts, that there were massive election irregularities, which in their opinions, invalidated the elections in these two countries, much to the embarrassment of international observers, who were in a hurry to certify these elections as ‘free and fair’.”

Mwaanga said it was important for political leaders in Zambia to dialogue on ground rules for the forthcoming elections.

He added that Zambia should not emulate Uganda’s recent general election as such elections were a disgrace to Africa.

“Zambia is going to have tripartite elections on 12th August, 2021. I would like to see our political leaders sit down and dialogue about the ground rules for the forthcoming elections. Thereafter, all the participating political parties should meet with the Electoral Commission of Zambia, to discuss even campaign rules and the transparency and openness of the entire electoral process, to avoid arbitrary decisions by law enforcement agencies, to impose unfair ground rules, which give the ruling party of the day an unfair advantage. Do we have anything to learn from Uganda’s just ended elections? Yes we do. We have learnt how not to run such elections, which are a disgrace to Africa. We are better than that and we must be seen to be doing the right thing for Zambians and Africans as a whole,” said Mwaanga.