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By Faridah Lule and Moses Ngorok.

Eng. Dr. Badru Kiggundu’s tenure as EC chairperson comes to an end in November 2016.

The tenure of the other Electoral Commissioners (with the exception of Commissioner Justine Mugabi, who’s already been re-appointed by President Museveni) will also come to an end.

Constitutionally, Electoral Commissioners in Uganda can serve a maximum of two seven-year terms in office, after which new commissioners are appointed by the President: a task President Museveni is expected to undertake in no more than a month.

The tale of Eng. Dr. Badru Kiggundu and his team’s tenure with the EC is mixed with successes and challenges—but its challenges outweigh the successes, thereby justifying the purpose of writing this, which is to provide a forecast of the job that lies ahead for those that, at the end of November, will take on the mantle from the outgoing Commission.

It’s pertinent that these new group of Commissioners serve the country best having been forewarned of the challenges they are likely to face when they assume their new jobs.

Inevitably, we must reflect on the work done by Eng. Dr. Badru Kiggundu, and his team that has managed and administered elections in Uganda for the last 14 years.

Taking positives first, there have been several developments seen since Eng. Dr. Badru Kiggundu and his team were appointed:

Increased levels of transparency by the EC, and willingness to collaborate with other stakeholders in the Electoral process exemplified in actions such the presence of an updated website which keeps stakeholders in the electoral process informed about the EC’s work.

The development and disbursement of a strategic plan for the 2016 general elections, which allowed for improved preparation by the EC in the 2016 general elections.

The adoption and use of new technologies such as the Biometric Voter Verification system which has simplified voter registration, thus enhancing greater and better partnership with other stakeholders in providing voter education—for instance, 66 organisations were accredited to conduct voter education during Uganda’s 2016 general elections.

Nonetheless, it’s pertinent to mention that the EC still faces great challenges administering elections. 

The four general elections (2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016) that Eng. Badru Kiggundu and his team have managed have fallen short of international standards for elections according to international and domestic observers.

Key areas cited for improvement by EC include:

Managing election logistics better to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised. For instance, in the 2016 general elections, voting materials got to polling stations around Kampala and Wakiso at 2pm rather than the stipulated 7am.

Other areas of improvement required of the EC as listed in election observation reports include the need to do better with voter education. It has been noted by election observers especially during the 2016 general elections, that there is a need for voters to be educated about basic voting procedure.

A consequence of a lack of proper voter education as cited by election observers during Uganda’s 2016 general elections was a wasteful use of ballot papers by voters who poorly marked ballots leading to a large number of collected spoilt ballots.

The most significant challenge though faced by the current EC is the criticism of its alleged lack of independence portrayed in the general lack of public mistrust especially after February 2016.  

These challenges have continued to paint the current EC, and consequently Eng. Dr. Badru Kiggundu, and his team in bad light.

Our hope is that, fore-warned, the incoming EC will be in better position to resolve the afore-mentioned challenges it is set to inherit from the outgoing EC —What is likely going to be, in our view, a mammoth task!  

Moses and Faridah are project staff at Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy Uganda. (CCEDU)

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