By PATRICK JARAMOGI
KAMPALA-SHIFTMEDIA- The army’s role in the electoral process in Uganda should cease, Civil Society activists have suggested.
The recommendations were echoed during the release of the 2020/21 Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy (CCEDU) report “Beyond 2021: Positively Influencing Uganda’s Democracy and Elections”.
The event that was considered ‘shunned’ by most government entities such as the Electoral Commission, Uganda Police the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), and Uganda Human Rights Commission (though they sent in late apologies) was held at the CCEDU headquarters in Muyenga, a posh Kampala suburb.
Hon. Dr. Miria Matembe the former Minister for Ethics and Integrity and CCEDU Board Chairperson described the January elections as a ‘sham’. “Those were not elections, but ballot buying and stuffing exercise supervised by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM),” said the enraged Matembe.
Matembe who contested for the position of the Elderly Representative in Parliament described what she underwent during the elections as outrageous and thuggery.
Matembe noted that during the 2021 general Elections, CCEDU observed Electoral processes before, during, and after Elections through its vast 972 Civil societies and 27,000 individual vast membership infrastructure.
John Mary Odoy, the Board Chairperson of Climate Action Network, (CAN) Uganda, who has 20 years of experience in election observing described the 2021 elections as “a shame”, “Hopeless”, “high rigged” and “violent”.
“For the 20 years I have been observing elections I haven’t witnessed such an election. Many people died, living behind widows and orphans. We hear of incidences where voters reached polling stations as early as 7 am only to be told voting had already been done,” he said.
Robert Ssempala the Executive Director of Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) said the denial of journalists’ accreditation to cover the elections was very irregular.
Charity Ahimbisibwe the Executive Director CCEDU said that though voting was conducted peacefully in many parts of the country, people’s expectations were shattered.
“It is also said that despite CCEDU sending out invitations to government bodies, none turned up apart from the Uganda Human Rights Commission that sent in apologies,” she said. Adding; “As CCEDU we are willing to hold dialogue with them since they have not come, we shall go to them and take the report to them.”
Ahimbisibwe said that the 2020/ 2021 General Elections that were held in the context of a COVID-19 pandemic had an extensive impact on the electoral process in Uganda.
“It not only disrupted the electoral roadmap, it also led to the postponement of elections for Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that had been originally scheduled for April and May 2020,” she said.
The Bugiri Municipality legislator Hon Assuman Bassalirwa hailed CCEDU for being among the CSOs that enabled him to win the highly contested Bugiri seat.
“Remember where I was contesting is the home for ruling NRM Secretary General, Justine Kasule Lumumba,” said Bassalirwa. “She had to everything within her means to make me lose. The two barracks in Gadaffi and Magamaga deployed heavily to intimidate the voters. I made a few calls to CSOs like CCEDU and Diplomatic missions, that change the setting,” he said
He said the soldiers begun withdrawing after they noticed that they are being watched by the observers.
Joseph Ochieno one of the panelists tasked the oposition to unite as one force if they are witness change.
Snapshots of the report
- COVID-19 pandemic had an extensive impact on the electoral process in Uganda.
- Covid-19 also disrupted the electoral roadmap by determining the mode of campaigns which was a departure from the usual campaigns, to the scientific one that the electorate and candidates were not accustomed to.
- This led to increased costs of campaigns since campaigns were media-based.
- Voters who showed up at the polling station and their names in the register and were given a chance to vote whether they did not have a national ID or a voter location slip.
- Though the Electoral Commission procured the Biometric Voter Veriﬁcation System (BBVS) and distributed Voter Location Slips (VLS) at the parish level in all districts of Uganda, some polling ofﬁcials did not know how to operate the BBVS machine.
- At least 56% of polling stations observed the BVVK machines failed to work properly.
- Though there was peaceful voting in many parts of the country, there were reports of delayed delivery of polling materials that were attributed to heavy deployment of the military.
- Observers noted that pregnant women, elders, and PWDS at 98% of polling stations observed were given a chance to vote ahead of the queue. This is in line with international standards that are in effect able to point out that if a person is vulnerable then they need to be helped to vote ahead of
- There was an increase in the number of female polling ofﬁcials. This is in comparison with the data of 2021 to that of 2016 Women were the majority voters’ totaling 9,218,963 (52.21%) in the 2021 Elections and therefore, allowing them to participate as poll ofﬁcials was a welcome initiative.
- However, there were also many shortcomings such as the violence observed during the nominations and throughout the campaigns. The campaign report highlights the scenarios that shuttered the expectations of many.
- During the Campaign period, there were nasty episodes of violence that led to the death of over 54 Ugandans.
- CCEDU recognizes that the Police is mandated to play an important role in elections, but because Elections are civil matters, excessive use of force dents the process
- The suspension of the campaigns in opposition strongholds with the majority voters due to Covid 19 (judging from 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2016) elections affected information ﬂow from candidates to voters.
- The electoral body failed to strike a balance between public safety, mitigation of health risks from COVID-19, and electoral freedoms and rights.
- In the 2021 elections, the security organs and RDCs involved themselves in active politics contrary to the law76
- There is a need for specialized training for security personal on a human rights-based approach when handling security matters.
- Police and security ofﬁcials are supposed to be neutral and not perceived to be working for any political party or promoting the agenda of any individual.
- Government should stop considering money and handouts as a motivation for voting for a candidate.
- The Human Rights Commission should intensify civic education on this aspect.
- Citizens should be vigilant to report to observers’ cases of malpractices during the voting process. E.g, when voters ﬁnd polls already done during the voting period or their names ticked on the voters, register even when they had not voted. Evidence from citizens would help in ensuring electoral justice.
- Voter education should start two years to the elections and intensify in the last year to elections
- Government should adequately fund the EC for voter Education and the voter registration exercise.
- Registration ofﬁcers including display ofﬁcers should be well paid to enable them to do a good
- CSOs should ensure the development of Voter and Civic education campaigns that target communities and start the campaigns two years before the election.