On Friday the people of Uganda go to the polls to elect both their President and a National Assembly. The winners take power for five years.
For the last twenty five years the winner of the Presidential race has been Yoweri Museveni. He is tipped to win again this time, although by a greatly reduced majority.
Questions have been raised over the fairness of the elections. Allegations of vote rigging and voter intimidation have been made, and in 2006, the main challenger to President Museveni, Dr Kizza Besigye, was prevented from campaigning effectively when he was charged with both rape and treason. Subsequently cleared of all charges, Dr Besigye is standing for election again.
Uganda has faced many problems. Until recently, people in the north were terrorised by the Lord’s Resistance Army, who waged a guerrilla campaign, killing, looting, maiming and disfiguring all who opposed them, as well as kidnapping children and forcing them to be soldiers and sex slaves. A generation has grown up fearful and scarred.
Poverty is widespread too. According to the International Monetary Fund, Uganda is the 102nd country when ranked according to wealth, and the average annual wage is just $514 (£318). Life for many is a constant struggle; this is highlighted by tales of people willing to give their votes for a bar of soap or a kilo of sugar.
Such poverty does not cause corruption but it can, and does, provide the yeast which allows corruption to rise. The power elite grow stronger and the rich grow richer, and the poor still have nothing. Health centres lack basic drugs and personnel and the quality of primary education is woeful. Unless the standards of these services are raised, the people of Uganda will never be free to improve their lives.
World In Need is doing what it can to help. We sponsor children, enabling them to go regularly to decent schools. The education they receive gives them a chance of a brighter future and benefits the whole community as teachers, engineers, doctors and others come forth. Sponsored children have good clothes and nutritious meals, and access to health care they might otherwise not have been able to find.
We are endeavouring to help the nation heal too, by helping former child soldiers return to a normal life; a long, slow and painful progress for children who have been taught to kill without mercy. Our representative, George Amoli, has personally adopted eight former child soldiers into his own family. With love, kindness and patience, he is giving them a new future.
We believe every child makes a difference. Each child we sponsor brings a little more hope to the whole community and as such, they will become the building blocks of Uganda’s future.
Whoever wins this Friday’s election.