Voters Choose Leaders to Approve New Constitution
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) _ Voters cast ballots today in their first election in 14 years, hoping to have a say in the writing of Uganda’s new constitution.
The business centers of the capital, Kampala, were largely deserted as people stayed in the suburbs to vote at their local polling places.
A turnout of about 70 percent was expected among the East African nation’s seven million voters, election officials said.
From more than 1,100 candidates, voters were electing an assembly of 200 members who are to debate a draft constitution. Among the issues to be considered by the assembly are whether the country should have a multiparty political system and how much power Uganda’s four former kingdoms should have.
Once a constitution is approved, Ugandans would choose a parliament and president later this year.
Some people were confused about the balloting and did not seem to understand the concept of a constitution. Others thought they were voting for the presidency.
″It’s so interesting. I really do not know why I am voting,″ said 19- year-old John Mubiru.
″Candidates have been dishing us gifts like this cap I am putting on,″ he said. He wore a hat that said ″Vote Ken Loukymu,″ a candidate for an assembly seat representing a southern part of the capital.
Others wanted to make sure the constitution guarantees powers for the individual kingdoms.
″I want to put my vote in the box for my candidate who will force the government to accept federalism,″ 70-year-old Abbas Musaka said at a suburban polling station.
Before British colonialism began a century ago, Uganda was split into four kingdoms, which monarchs ruled with supreme power.
Before independence in 1962, Uganda negotiated a constitution in which the kingdoms became semi-autonomous. The kingdoms frequently clashed with each other and the government until their powers were abolished and a stronger central authority set up in the current constitution, approved in 1967.
In the last election in 1980, Milton Obote was elected president to replace ousted dictator Idi Amin. Obote was overthrown in a 1985 military coup.
President Yoweri Museveni, who had waged a five-year bush war against Obote, overthrew the generals the following year and suspended activities by political parties. Two years later he appointed a commission to gather opinions on a new constitution.
Museveni has said he thinks the country is not ready for a multiparty system that would likely be based on religious and tribal divisions.