Calls for Full Democratic Rights for Ugandan Diaspora Voting Intensify

By Victoria Bagaaya and David Ijjo 

As Uganda's political landscape evolves, experts in international relations have advocated for the government to extend full democratic voting rights to Ugandans living in the diaspora.

Prominent figures such as former diplomat and ambassador Jack Wamai Wamanga emphasized the importance of allowing members of the diaspora to exercise their voting privileges, asserting that this move would not only acknowledge their contributions to political parties but also align with global norms of democratic representation.

Diaspora engagement has emerged as a crucial strategy for political parties in Uganda to secure financial and political backing. Despite residing abroad, Ugandans in the diaspora have been courted by political leaders during overseas visits, with parties such as the NRM (National Resistance Movement) and the National Unity Platform seeking their support. Remarkably, these Ugandans are unable to cast their votes in the national elections.

Former diplomat Jack Wamai Wamanga delved into the reasons behind political parties' interest in engaging the diaspora, despite their voting ineligibility.

"Political parties like NRM and National Unity Platform benefit from the diaspora through funding and political support," Wamanga explained.

Highlighting the financial contributions and the political allegiance that diaspora Ugandans offer. Consequently, Wamanga advocated for reciprocity, suggesting that granting diaspora members voting rights would be a way for parties to acknowledge the support they receive.

"The need for the government to spread the gospel of a conducive environment for investors... compels the president to resort to support in the diaspora," Wamanga added.

Wamanga also pointed to the government's role in fostering an environment conducive to investors and debunking opposition-propagated narratives that circulate within the diaspora suggesting that these factors drive the president and other political leaders to court support from Ugandans living abroad.

Former presidential candidate Abed Bwanika echoed Wamanga's perspective, asserting that the government's hesitance to grant diaspora voting rights stems from the diaspora's largely opposition-leaning disposition, a viewpoint shared by former ambassador Edith Ssempala, who underlined the potential political implications of extending voting rights to Ugandans abroad.

"The sitting government is reluctant to grant the diaspora voting rights because of being largely in opposition. “Highlighted Bwanika

Bumali Mpindi, a legislator representing disabled individuals, further supported the movement for extending voting rights to the diaspora.

"Our democracy should be all-inclusive, ensuring that every Ugandan, regardless of location, has a voice in shaping the nation's future," Mpindi stated, highlighting the principle of inclusivity and representation.

In light of the growing discourse, political parties are actively advocating for Ugandans living in the diaspora to be granted their full voting rights.

The debate underscores the evolving nature of political engagement in a globalized world and the significance of acknowledging the contributions and aspirations of citizens, regardless of their geographic location.

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