Ugandan Election: You can WIN with just your good looks!

Last week I visited Kampala, the capitol of Uganda, where a national election is underway. They vote for a new President and members of Parliament on February 18th, 2011. The last big election was 5 years ago. There are 8 political parties, and they drive buses or flatbed trucks around the city at all hours of the day with a man on loudspeaker extolling the benefits of their respective parties.

Posters cover walls downtown and even in sparse areas near Lake Victoria:

Posters in Ggaba trading center, on Lake Victoria

Ugandan Political Parties

Since all political posters followed the same pattern, of showing someone’s face in 90% of the space, and a little symbol in one corner to represent the party, I have nothing I can say about actual ISSUES that these parties campaign on. Instead, I refer to them only by their symbols:

The Blue Key Party – these guys seemed to have a lot of posters around
The Revolutionary Busesthis party has ruled Uganda for 26 years, and they win for the most posters! Yellow seems to be their color, and they’re not afraid to air brush the faces to make people seem younger and more attractive.
The Chair Party – Seems like the oddest symbol, since sitting in a rickety chair like this doesn’t embody power.
The Giraffe Party – this was the only poster to actually put any content on their posters in largest enough print one can read it. A woman runs this party and she says, “Uganda is ready for Federalism!
The Lamp Party
The Hoe Party – insert your humorous remarks below 🙂
The Soccer Balls Party – maybe trying to pander to the youth vote?
The Flower Power Party – Candidates look more dignified than a hippie party.
The boom boxes! – My personal favorite. I only think I saw one candidate, and he was a DJ or something. But I love the idea that a serious political movement can decide that a pioneer stereo system best represents their vision for Uganda.

One interesting note is that in the Ggaba neighborhood of Kampala, my friend Kizito from Youth Aid Uganda mentioned that a “muzungo” Irishman is running for parliament. “He is likely to win,” Kizito added. “The people are fed up with corruption, and they trust a muzungo to do better.” Coverage of the first white man to run as a Ugandan citizen for parliament is scarce, but his name is Ian Clarke and he is a medical doctor and owns the International Hospital of Uganda.

My how times have changed. Instead of foreigners dictating how the country should be run, a foreigner is trying to earn the right to represent the people. He’s lived here for over 10 years and his work thus far has already proven to help the community. Earning the trust of the people is always challenging. In fact, I’ll soon write a whole post just on trust and the many examples of how people undermine their own efforts to build trust in East Africa. Building a network of local supporters for your nonprofit organization is not too different from running for office. In both cases you need to be a good listener, and able to inspire people until you can demonstrate that you keep your promises.

More Scenes from Kampala

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One thought on “Ugandan Election: You can WIN with just your good looks!

  1. Fantastic observations of these political parties! Much more colorful than our donkey and elephant (and the Tea Party)!

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