By Moses Ngorok.
Uganda’s general elections were conducted in February and March this year. Several international and domestic election observation groups observed the 2016 General elections with the aim of reporting and making recommendations on the elections.
The ideology behind election observation is to assess elections and make recommendations that seek to see continuous improvement in the management of a country’s elections; very much in the spirit of the revered Japanese Kaizen method of production which emphasizes continuous improvement in industrial production by continuously cutting down on wastage in production processes.
Fatefully, both the domestic and international observers who observed Uganda’s elections presented reports in which many of these observation groups noted that Uganda’s 2016 general elections had fallen short of the internationally set standards for elections.
Back to the analogy of the Japanese Kaizen production style, what the election observation groups in effect presented to all stakeholders in the electoral processes in Uganda to name a few: The Government particularly the Electoral Commission, Citizens and Civil Society Organisations is to identify “areas of wastage” affecting the production line we may refer to as Uganda’s electoral process and offered recommendations to stakeholders which are hoped to fix these challenges in time for the next general elections in 2021.
An axiom of success which successful people and entities would attest as necessary to meeting one’s goals/dream is the need to take action often times illustrated by the adage “talk is cheap”. In the context of our electoral process and in view of the recommendations received from observers, this insinuates that as a country we must take action on recommendations made by observers. Whereas discussion of these issues whether on radio, television or even social media is great, taking strategized actions on these issues while working together supersedes all manner of discussions we can have.
It is imperative that every stakeholder in the process rolls up their sleeves and does some work. This is important because the respect of democratic values and principles is very key to the development of our country whether it relates to one’s hopes of getting a feeder road graded by the government or the collective attainment of the grand vision 2040--the attainment of all these goals is pivoted on respect of democratic values and principles.
Talking strategy, it’s vital that actions taken by stakeholders are backed by very good strategies—for what does it help to put in a lot of effort while walking in the wrong direction? As such, it necessary for stakeholders to get around tables and develop good strategies to address indentified electoral challenges and once this is done, action is should be taken. For example the need to reform our electoral law (which was a prevalent recommendation by both international and domestic election observer groups) needs to be thought through and acted on.
The need for collective action on electoral issues we face as a country cannot be overly emphasized, I am for example (hopefully without sounding treacherous) tempted to suggest that we add my formulated slogan “Taking action” as a post script to our National Anthem to serve as a useful reminder to Ugandans living today and posterity of the importance of getting involved in addressing the electoral challenges we face as a country.
The writer is the Advocacy Officer, Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy Uganda.
By Crispy Kaheru
As the appointment of the new EC looms over the political horizon, there is a general consensus on having an election management body that fits into the current political context of the country – the prevailing modus operandi or aspirations of a multi-party democratic political dispensation.
At the moment, the manner of appointment prescribed in Constitution, Article 60 (1) of the 1995 Constitution is that, all seven (7) Commissioners are appointed by the President with the approval of Parliament.
Entities including civil society groups, political parties and other professional bodies including the Uganda Law Society have since 2006 mooted a suggestion that Commissioners be hired through a public appointment process, that enlists wider stakeholder consultation and a more inclusive approval mechanism that instills public confidence in the capacity of the commissioners and their ability to operate more professionally.
If Uganda was to pursue a competitive application based appointment process, it would require amending the current provisions of appointment in both the Constitution and the Electoral Commission Act to provide for a (new) detailed process of identifying and selecting persons to be appointed as members of the Commission.
However, since this is realistically not possible given the short time span to the appointment of the new Electoral Commission, it is very critical that the appointing authority (the President) this time round, intensively consults with various stakeholders including: civil society, the academia, political parties, the judiciary, professional bodies, with a view of obtaining recommendations of an exceptional caliber of individuals who will continuously attract public confidence.
Such a consultative appointment process will not espouse a certain level of public participation but will also dispels any ‘would be’ perceptions of biasness, and favoritism by the appointing authority. Such a process will strengthen the credibility and legitimacy of the Commissioners and will definitely portend well with the Public’s trust in the institution of the new EC.
Given that elections have become highly specialised and have since drawn a lot of public interest than never before, we will also expect the President to put much emphasis on the professional and academic qualifications of the next Commissioners.
Similarly, pursuant to the provisions in the Equal Opportunities Act, 2007, it is critical that the appointing authority is seen to take affirmative action in favour of groups marginalized on the basis of gender, age, disability or any other reason to ensure that the new commission wholly representative of the demographics of the country. This will also inherently operationalize the legislative guarantees on equal participation in the election process through real actions designed within the composition of the Electoral Commission.
Many analysts have argued that the inclusivity of an electoral process begins at the top echelon of an election management body. If the EC is for instance not reflective of the demographic composition of the country, chances are that the actual electoral processes may not be or will be far-removed from the population. Today, women and youth make up a larger part of Uganda’s population; this could be an important consideration during the composition of the new EC. This will further engender Uganda’s electoral processes with pronounced disability, youth and women friendly electoral practices.
Besides, Ugandans will expect a Commission that is regionally and ethnically balanced, but also a Commission that takes into account the religious contours of the country.
Taking the above issues into consideration in the appointment of the new EC will not only further guarantee the professionalism and independence of the Election Commission but also serve to address some of the trust issues that have been enunciated by various actors. Besides, consideration of these factors will enable the institution to inherently remain insulated from external pulls and pressures that are likely to confront such a sensitive body.
Coordinator, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU)
By Charity Ahimbisibwe.
When retired Col. Kizza Besigye lodged a complaint in court after the 2011 elections, he was dissatisfied with the elections because polling materials that were delivered to polling stations were not properly sealed, some polling stations had short deliveries of ballot papers; ballot stuffing and multiple voting had happened in some polling station; there was tampering and alteration of results, EC officials refused and some failed to give DR forms to Besigye’s agents.
There were arrests, intimidation and violence. Kizza Besigye was not the only one who lodged a complaint back then, there were over 80 court petitions after the 2011 elections. All these problems were the making of the electoral commission. It is the role of the Electoral Commission to ensure a fair electoral process by enforcing equal access to state media, regulating campaign finances, and prosecution of electoral offenders.
The observers in 2011 election, reported that there were localized incidents of violence and poor management of elections by the Electoral Commission. The overwhelming lack of a level playing field, abuse of incumbency and commercialization of politics were a key concern in the 2011 election. As a result, the observers documented that the 2011 elections did not fully meet national, regional and international standards for democratic elections, which was a concern to the common wealth and the international community.
The observers of 2016 general elections, both local and international came to a similar conclusion, but stressed that unless an independent electoral commission is established Ugandan elections would always be contested as illustrated.
As we approached the 2016 Uganda general elections, we went to the polls in the midst of calls for reforms among others of the electoral management body. Ugandans at the time lacked confidence in the ability of the electoral commission to deliver free and fair elections in a multi-party dispensation. This perception was backed by the fact that the EC was introduced through the efforts of one single party (NRM) and evidence showed that the body’s autonomy and impartiality were questionable.
Due to such widespread perception, the body has over time registered declining confidence and trust from sections of the electorate, and members of political parties from across the political divide. Indeed, in the 2016 election the electoral commission delivered the Ugandans perceptions of the institution.
In some areas (Wakiso and Kampala) materials were delivered late on Election Day, in the local Council elections all polling stations across the country, opened late and the standards of elections were compromised throughout the process. The commission failed to regulate campaign financing during the election and there was no equal access to the media by all political parties especially on the national broadcaster UBC.
As if that was not bad enough, there was a presidential petition immediately after the elections because the results were highly contested. Also 218 parliamentary and local council petitions were registered by the legal department at the commission. Of these petitions, 114 of them have been concluded, 58 cases have been appealed, 44 cases are pending judgment and 1 has been reinstated. With such a pathetic track record, it is prudent that the President considers the following issues as he appoints a new commission:
The appointment process of the commissioners needs to be more inclusive because Uganda operates in a multiparty dispensation. Composition of the Commission is central in ensuring balance. Qualifications of commissioners and commissioners’ terms of office are key.
The President also needs to consider the commissioners’ length of tenure; commissioners’ conditions of service; funding of the commission should be boosted; the powers of the Commission; and the appellation of the Commission –should reflect the commission’s huge mission and mandate.
These features are mutually dependent and have to be addressed in totality, if Uganda is to have an independent and credible Electoral Commission. As the process of appointment of new commissioners’ takes shape, it is our plea that the President will consider the frustration Ugandans registered in the 2016 election because of the failures of the current Electoral Commission; by appointing an independent, inclusive and credible Electoral Commission.
Charity Kalebbo Ahimbisibwe is the Communications and Advocacy Manager at Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU).
By Eddie Ssemakula.
We can confidently say it again, the Electoral Commission intolerably failed to live up to national expectations in the February 2016 election, we can recall that even one of the polling stations in their Namuwongo backyard never received voting materials in time. And we are not yet talking the mushrooming by-elections yet. Wakiso and Kampala districts registered their own woes on that dark February day. to mention that the chairperson, Badru Kiggundu, later promised to hand over the reins at the highest electoral management body, a move we are still waiting to see happen.But what if we revisited the root of this all?
What if, once again, we question the legality of the EC appointment process? What if we started now? And pondered matters related to the electoral commission rather than waiting for tallying centre announcements and delayed voting materials?
As we head towards the next election, here are a couple of critical things honorable Ugandans must speak to before we end up in a bad marriage, democratically. Appointment of Commissioners; this September, we are going to see the appointment of new commissioners, our hope is that this process will have a more inclusive mechanism that instills public confidence in their ability to operate autonomously and professionally.
Article 60(1) of the Ugandan Constitution still maintains that all seven commissioners are appointed by the President with the approval of Parliament, this appointment process does not safeguard them from the influence of the incumbent. With the seemingly arriving constitutional review process, will our legislators push for appointment laws that are insulated from manipulation? Kenya has an appointment panel we can emulate, approved by Parliament; the panel directly invites qualified candidates from the public. Is that something we can mimic?Composition of the Electoral Commission; Emerging Democracies like Uganda need an electoral management body quarantined from political party influence, the current management body seems to have “cut their teeth” under the National Resistance Movement, a fact that leaves Ugandans skeptical about it’s capacity to “bite the finger that feeds”.
Zimbabwe for example (all other factors constant) has a seven-member electoral Commission in which five females represent, the composition of our electoral body must reflect the diversity, gender inclusiveness, and the culture of the peoples of Uganda. Shall we speak to this matter dear Ugandans? Commissions with such representation are far more socially acceptable than commissions that disregard these.There you go, Ugandans have a few things to work upon before the next election, our members of Parliament, our opinion leaders, our civil society organisations, plus our media, all have a responsibility on their hands, to fuel a critical mass that will keep the establishment in check concerning these matters, way earlier.
If Democracy means anything to Ugandans and we still don’t speak now, may we never blame anybody for the bad union that eventually ensues, come 2021. May we speak now or forever hold our peace.
The writer is Project Associate – New Media, at Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy Uganda (CCEDU)
By Badru Walusansa.
By Badru Walusansa.
One of the outstanding achievements on which this government was premised was maintaining a Police force far not synonymous with previous regimes. The current regime used to leverage on a Police force that was not militarized and brutal, consequently suppressing peoples’ freedoms. However, this has changed over time, and what used to be referred to as a professional Police has now turned into a major human rights violations perpetrator.
I was challenged this morning to get out a copy of my constitution to remind myself about the cardinal functions of the Uganda Police Force. There I was, with article 212 (a) (b), while thinking, what were the framers of this articles thinking not to include; brutalizing civilians with “Kiboko”? Perhaps we need an amendment for the same article in spirit of the Inspector General of Police recent reiteration over these beatings.Not limited to Police brutality that everyone witnessed in the media, who knows there could be a lot of Police brutality against civilians that strenuously goes, unnoticed? This then defeats my expectations of a Police that recently celebrated 100 years with a broad theme, indicative of transition, from colonial policing to community policing.
In reality, community policing is indispensable. That is, citizens should collaboratively work with police and eventually build mutual ties. The underlying question is, have we actually achieved this? Or we are moving towards a different direction? Well, I see a big divide between civilians and Police, although the latter should protect the lives and property of the former. Our Police has branded it’s self too rebellious by committing this kind of impunity in the name of “public order”. It often employs excessive force and repressive prowess onto unarmed civilians, who under such circumstances, sustain severe injuries and lose lives.
Although civil society actively engages Police through amplifying civilian calls to professionalize Police operations, less has been done in response. If Police only and fairly operationalized Article 211 (3) of the constitution; it would save the bad image it’s grappling with.As we continue with this conversation, four Police officers implicated in the mayhem caused against opposition supporters are being tried in police court, in a legal process largely contested as unjust, as expressed by several in the legal fraternity.
One of the recommendations suggested by Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) in light of professionalizing police, is to refrain from using excessive force in regulating public gatherings and effecting arrests and ensuring Police officers are equipped with non-lethal crowd control equipment, such as rubber bullets and tear gas, but even these should be applied proportionately and when absolutely necessary. We need to rethink an institutional policy; relevant to professionalize the Uganda Police Force, lest it continues sliding off its constitutional mandate.
Badru Walusansa is a former CEON-U Observer currently with CCEDU.