Open Letter to Uganda’s Presidential Candidates 2016 General Elections

Dear Distinguished Candidates for the Presidency of the Republic of Uganda,

Congratulations upon being nominated and the convincing support you have earned from citizens during your campaigns.

I am writing this as an open letter to you; all the candidates for the presidency of Uganda. As I do so, I am torn between two conflicting emotions.

On the one hand, I am full of excitement that our young democracy has matured to the point where the people of Uganda can cast their votes among a slate of able candidates. The sincerity of your political engagement and the promise of a free and fair election fills me with tremendous hope. The fact that all your manifestos show a commitment to national unity, peace, justice, democracy, and the rule of law deserves admiration.  These are all indicators that we have come a long way since the days when the barrel of a gun or the blade of a machete decided who would run our country.

On the other hand, I am deeply concerned about the level of violence that has accompanied the election campaign so far. Not to mention, worried over the rhetoric and the purposes for which youth have been mobilized. These are alarming signs, and I am even more concerned that it may get further out of hand. Should this happen, especially if the vote counting is not beyond reproach, I fear for my country. In this case, all of us would lose. The violence reminds us that the roots of our young democracy have not yet grown deep enough; yet the roots have reached a point to be built upon with integrity and sincere commitment to respect for the decision that the Ugandan people will make with this elections. Our democracy is only as immature and fragile as we allow it to be.

Nobody plays a bigger role in strengthening our democracy than the candidates running for the highest office in the land. Your democratic commitment is best demonstrated by conducting a responsible, clean campaign and uniting post elections messages.There is no shame in losing a free and fair election, just as there is no peace in ruling a violent and bloody claimed election victory.

Just imagine what a lasting legacy you would leave behind if you fought a hard but just fight, no matter the final result. Imagine how dignified and empowered the people of Uganda would feel in having voted in such an historic election. And, trusting that you are a proud Ugandan as I am, just imagine what this would do for the image of our country. This is the opportunity to shine and to show our young generation, fellow Africans and the rest of the world that Uganda can be a role model of governance.

If we fail, our bloody history may return with vengeance and the image of our beautiful country will be sullied, yet again, for generations to come. It is in your hands. But violence would take it out of your hands. We have the opportunity through this elections to avoid a repeat of the history of humiliating and harmful political violence and rebellion, experiences that in the past brought dishonor, harm and division to our country. This election is an opportunity for not dividing the next generation, to be role models for young leaders who aspire to continue progressing peace and development in our country.  So, nurture the seeds of peace and tolerance now. Leave behind any use of language of violence, threats and show of power; and refrain from provocation that risk people losing their minds.

Dear Presidential candidates, even as you seek for the highest job in this country, may you respectfully remember that, by birth, you are an equal among equals to be entrusted with the mandate of the Ugandan citizens. I pray that you act with humility in the care and respect of your country and your people, during and after the elections.

Together with your mature leadership, we can elevate Uganda to new heights.

God bless you, God bless Africa

Victor Ochen 

Victor Ochen is a Ugandan born and raised in Lira, (Abia – Internally Displaced Peoples) camp in northern Uganda. He is the founder and director of African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET), he became the first Ugandan and youngest African Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and has been named the United Nations Ambassador for Peace and Justice (representing SDG Goal 16), he is the recipient of African regional and Pan-Commonwealth Youth Worker’s awards, and also recipient of Mundo Negro Fraternity award by the Daniel Comboni Missionaries of Spain, and still among other recognition, Victor has just been appointed as a Global Advisor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Gender, Forced Displacement and Protection.