For Immediate Release – 11th January 2018
Ruhaama County went to the polls today – January 11, 2018, to elect a Member of Parliament. The election followed the death of the area MP – William Beijukye Zinkuratire from NRM. To track the day’s activities, CCEDU deployed a team of mobile observers who sampled eight (8) out of the eleven (11) Sub Counties that comprise Ruhaama County. CCEDU’s sample included: Itojo, Ruhaama, Ntungamo TC, Rukoni West, Rwikiniro, Kitwe, Kafunjo and Nyakyeera sub counties. Preliminary findings of the observation team were:
Opening of the Poll:
While the Electoral Commission dispatched polling materials from their office as early as 4:30am, CCEDU observed delays in arrival of the material at the polling stations and subsequent delay in the commencement of polling. Some polling stations received polling material as late as 8.07am. Kashenyi CoU Primary School, Nyakibobo and Bukora, polling stations received polling material at 7.27am, 7.37am and 8.07am respectively. CCEDU observed delivery of material at some polling stations without the presence of a polling constable to secure them.
At some polling stations such as Kashenyi CoU Primary School, the presiding officers were not at the polling stations at the time of delivery of polling material. As such, material was received by polling assistants.
Due to the late arrival of polling material, voting at a number of polling stations such as Bukora Primary School in Itojo Sub County started as late 8.50am.
CCEDU observed with satisfaction that polling officials generally conducted the process in accordance with the electoral law and the guidelines provided by the Electoral Commission.
Closing of the Polls:
Most polling stations closed right on time (4:00pm) because there were no voters in the queue.
CCEDU noted with concern very low voter turnout at all polling stations visited. For instance by 12.00pm a total of 78 out of 526 registered voters had turned up at Ruhaama Primary School; and at 2.00pm a total of 183 out of 741 registered voters had turned up at Nyakagando Muslim Primary School polling station. From the interactions that the observers had with some people from the community, it was noted that the main reason for low voter turnout was voter fatigue. “We voted in 2016. After the death of our MP we again voted during the party primaries. We are again expected to vote… you get tired” A lady at Ruhaama Primary School said. The other reason noted for the low voter turnout was confidence lost in elections. “We are fed up! People are out there, very many – but have you seen them coming? We vote for our candidate but government takes the last say on whom they want…” A lady at Ruhaama Primary School said.
CCEDU observed the presence of candidate agents for all the candidates at almost all the polling stations visited. The agents were allowed to undertake their responsibilities freely. CCEDU also noted that most of the candidate agents at the stations visited were female.
Whereas polling constables were absent at some stations at commencement of polling, CCEDU observed their presence during the rest of the polling process at all stations visited. They were observed to execute their duties as prescribed by the law. The election was conducted in a generally calm atmosphere with no reports of serious security breaches.
There were reports of gross ballot stuffing that led to a halt of polling at Nyakibaare polling station in Rukoni East Sub County. The number of ticked ballot papers in the box did not tally with the number of voters ticked in the voter register. The Electoral Commission later ordered a fresh start of polling. CCEDU received similar reports of ballot stuffing at polling stations in Kyamwasha, Kahoko primary school, Nyamabaare and Mushunga in Rukoni East sub county.
CCEDU received reports of clashes between supporters of Independent candidate, Eng. Jackson Mubangizi and NRM’s Kahima Moses Mugabe at Kahoko primary school polling station in Rukoni East Sub County.
Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) together with the South Western Institute for Policy and Advocacy (SOWIPA) are deploying 30 community election observers to the Ruhaama County by-election to be held on 11th January 2018. Observers will be deployed in the 11 Sub Counties of Ruhaama, including: Ntungamo, Itojo, Nyakyera, Ruhaama, Ruhaama East, Rukoni East, Rukoni West, Kafunjo TC, Rweikiniro, Kitwe TC and Rubobo.
Observers will report on general election administration including opening, polling and closing processes of polling stations; tallying and announcement of results; the conduct of security agencies; the role of media; participation of special interest groups; as well as the immediate aftermath of the by-election. The observation is intended to verify whether the electoral processes adhere to international standards and national legal provisions of conducting credible, free and fair elections. Observers will also pay special attention to any arising good practices that could be replicated in subsequent elections.
The Ruhaama Constituency seat fell vacant after the death of area MP William Beijukye Zinkuratire (NRM) on 4th November 2017.
The by-election has attracted a total of four candidates:
1 Mr. Moses Mugabe Kahima (NRM)
2 Eng. Jackson Mubangizi (Independent)
3 Dr. Penninah Bainomugisha (Independent)
4 Ms. Vastine Orishaba (Independent)
Campaigns for the by-election commenced on 11th December 2017 following a successful nomination of candidates’ exercise conducted by the Electoral Commission. Although campaigns have been largely peaceful, community observers have noted widespread reports of political intimidation especially in Rweikiniro Sub County; instances of voter bribery; isolated incidents of violence as well as cases of candidates holding campaign meetings beyond 6:00pm, which is in contravention of the EC guidelines on campaigning.
Every year comes with its challenges and opportunities. When a year comes to an end, we tend to remember the last moments more. Many highs, many lows; but for Uganda the dying moments of 2017 could easily qualify as dampening. I will tell you why I think so, in a moment; but first, let’s toast to the opportunities well seized as well as the challenges encountered. Challenges are our best friends; they teach us lessons to be better people. As we toast to a New Year, let’s celebrate life, let’s commiserate with those who lost their dear ones.
At a more professional level, it is just right and fitting that we empathize with our media friends whose resolve to keep Ugandans informed could have either landed them in jail or left them physically and emotionally bruised. Let’s salute the men and women in leadership positions who stood with Uganda amidst the murky political torrents. As we party away a year of scars, wounds, healing and successes, let’s also remember to toast to the men and women in uniform, especially those who did their work dedicatedly with professionalism amidst undue pressures and persuasions.
Three cheers for those who opened their hands to warmly receive and help the refugees who fled wars, calamities and other situations from their original home countries. Let’s pay tribute to all those Ugandans who worked tirelessly to preserve and improve their environment. Let’s acknowledge those men and women who stood against any form of injustices – social, economic or otherwise. Of course, we need to pay special homage to those who fought viciously against the scourge of corruption that has eaten deeply into our society. Let’s not forget to express our invaluable gratitude to those who made a step towards reawakening the value system upon which Ugandan was originally founded (Ubuntu).
Let’s pass on our special gratitude to all those who defied odds to create and nurture opportunities for Uganda and Ugandans. Let’s salute all those who put Uganda on the map for good reasons irrespective of field. Three cheers to the men and women who brought life to earth, those who nurtured lives and those who saved lives. Let’s toast to those who produced unadulterated food that fueled our souls and bodies. Back to my pet subject, for most of the civic groups working on governance issues, 2017 has been yet another tough year.
The year ending will be remembered as that of a ‘broken promise’. Advocacy civil society groups continued to bear the brunt of a skeptical regime. Besides implementing their programmes in a highly suspicious atmosphere, civic outfits had to contend with vilification, office break-ins, technological intrusions, unclear security incidents, alongside navigating the unchartered waters of a new regulatory framework for NGOs. Some voices critical of government policies and actions were scornfully viewed with not-so-much attention paid to the issues they were raising.
Independent expository works by researchers, academics, philanthropists and media that were deemed thorny towards government occasionally attracted the unkind eye of the state. Book censorship increasingly became a troubling trend. An assessment of both 2016 (which was an election year) and 2017 clearly reveals that a lot of energies were expended on bigoted politicking rather than championing socio-economic development. The last quarter of 2017 for instance has seen a lot of attention paid to amending the Constitution to remove the age limits for presidential candidates. Unfortunately, by giving this amendment primacy over other ‘matters of national importance’, government only succeeded in one thing; keeping the country on a political agenda, continuing from 2016, which was an election year. By so doing, government’s moral authority to claim that Ugandans spend a lot of time politicking rather than doing productive work may have been successfully punctured. Ugandans are not the kind of people interested in spending too much time politicking; Ugandans want a corrupt-free society, they want good quality education, they need accessible quality health care; Ugandans want jobs for their children, they want political stability; Ugandans want to feel part and parcel of Uganda; Ugandans want safe-guards that will guarantee peaceful leadership transition at all levels; and most importantly, Ugandans want a Uganda that works for each of them.
The final bend to 2018 harbored clear testaments that the bridge between citizens and the state has either weakened or is now inexistent. As citizens thought they were getting over a litany of broken promises and social contracts, the linchpin between the wanainchi and the state did it again; they broke the hearts of many Ugandans when they removed age limitations for presidential candidates contrary to the wishes of majority of citizens. Like the saying goes, “since hunters have learned to shoot without missing, birds will have no choice but learn to fly without perching”; now, citizens have to inevitably learn to represent their views and aspirations without necessarily going through the ‘middle-men/women’ who have recently handed the citizens a raw deal.
The rough 2017 may have only made citizens and civic actors even stronger. Citizens have to inevitably confront 2018 with hope and resilience. While 2017 may have explicitly demonstrated that citizens are at the periphery, 2018 offers a new opportunity for wanainchi to expand frontiers and ensure they are at the center of their country’s destiny. It is high time that citizens engage new gears to sort the challenges that have affected the country in the previous years. A genuine dialogic approach is worthy exploring. We need to resolve to whine and criticize less, but challenge and act more. May the New Year inspire a unity of purpose to build the Uganda that works for each one of us. May our choices and resolutions for 2018 reflect our collective hopes rather than fears!
By Crispy Kaheru
ADVERT/ TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR MEDIA CAMPAIGN FOR VOICE PROJECT.
Following the February 2016 Uganda’s general elections, Citizens’ Election Observer’s Network in Uganda (CEON-U) highlighted limited youth participation as one of the key concerns by the youth and other citizens in engagement in elections due to the existing laws particularly the Sec. 8 of the National Youth Act Cap 319 that confers too much power to the youth councils to elect members of the National Youth Delegates Conference who then elect the National Youth Council Executive Committee and the five youth MPs for all youth in Uganda.
Youth in Uganda take 78% of Uganda’s population which amounts to 8 million young people. Among the 8 million youth, only 336 youth were able to participate in the 2016 youth council and youth MPs elections which amounts to 0.001% of the youth population in Uganda that participated in making these important decisions. Operating under representative democracy, this governance model of using the Electoral College system technically bars youth from participating in directly electing their leaders to Parliament; this triggered CCEDU under FHRI to come up with the VOICE project so as to boost youth participation in electoral democracy.
Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) hosted by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) entered into a project based partnership (VOICE PROJECT) with OXFAM where OXFAM supports FHRI/CCEDU to identify platforms through which the youth will amplify their voices in order to influence policy makers to amend the National Youth Council Act and other relevant legislations so as to ensure youth participation under ‘My VOICE Campaign’. CCEDU is therefore soliciting the services of a media agency that will develop exciting but influential messages under the “My VOICE Campaign” banner. The agency will be responsible for developing campaign identity concepts, and sample audio and visual dummy messages, that will be used on various radio and TV stations at the national and regional levels (Karamoja and West Nile region) that will ably amplify out youth voices. The contract period is one week.
As the government tightens controls over non-governmental organisations, citing political interference, a leading human rights defender has made the case for self-regulation. In the face of mounting state pressure, which has seen NGO premises searched by police and bank accounts frozen recently, Dr Livingstone Sewanyana, makes a passionate case for the right to associate, organize and for accountable government. The executive director at Foundation for Human Rights Initiative has expressed these views in a recently launched book, Comparative Experiences of NGO Regulatory Frameworks: Eastern and Southern Africa. Some states have embraced self-regulation, which, according to Sewanyana, is best.
A few countries have a hybrid model. “Most countries around the region have adopted particular models to suit their own circumstances and political contexts,” Sewanyana says. Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Uganda have state regulation while Malawi and Kenya operate under hybrid regulation. Countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, India and Ghana have adopted self-regulation. “This speaks volumes about their democracy and how they respond to the right of people to organise and associate,” Sewanyana says.
Nicholas Opiyo, the executive director of Chapter Four, said it is no coincidence that countries with questionable ‘democracy’ impose state regulation on NGOs. “This control of NGOs by the state is an issue of power and space,” said Opiyo, adding, “There is no need to have eight laws governing one sector.”
Richard Ssewakiryanga, executive director, Uganda National NGO Forum, said there is an uneasy relationship between the state and NGOs because government views them as competitors. “Many NGOs provide services much better than the state,” noted Ssewakiryanga. He said the number of NGOs has grown from 21 in 1996, to 14,000.
“That space is highly contested. Governments all over the world are wondering how these people [NGOs] out of nowhere claim the space and become a substitute for the state,” Sewanyana said. This partly explains the police raids on NGO premises, freezing of their accounts and break-ins into their offices, he said. Uganda’s regulatory framework, despite some improvements in the new NGO Act, 2016, is criticized for undermining public participation. The need for a stronger civil society has now seen civil society law become a new discipline to be taught at the school of law, Makerere University.
The law school recognizes the contribution of African NGOs in the promotion of democracy and holding governments accountable, according to Prof Christopher Mbaziira, the acting Principal at the law school. “The problems have risen partly from the regulatory framework,” says Mbaziira. Sewanyana’s book explores possible reforms that uphold internationally accepted human rights principles. The book investigates these issues within the historical context of NGOs in Africa, as well as a theory of democracy that stresses participation, accountability and respect for individual liberties. The book concludes that Uganda’s law does not meet these basic requirements.
He proposes self-regulation alongside minimal state involvement. “This model would entail the establishment of an autonomous NGO regulatory authority composed of members selected autonomously by NGOs, ‘decriminalisation’ of NGO activities, reducing the powers of the state-led regulatory model, and increasing the involvement of NGOs…,” Sewanyana said. This week, state minister for internal affairs, Obiga Kania, told The Observer that regulation is the duty of the state. He maintains that the NGO Act 2016 and subsidiary regulations were a result of extensive consultations with these very organisations and 1,200 sub-counties. “I don’t know who Dr Livingstone consulted to arrive at the conclusion he makes in his book but he is entitled to his own opinion.
However, for us as government, we extensively consulted the stakeholders before making our decisions,” Kania said. “With more than 13,000 NGOs, there must be a legal structure to govern their activities,” said Kania, referring to the NGO bureau, which he said has a “team [which] is more modern and interactive. It has eased registration, accountability and the overall operations of NGOs.” Kania said there was nothing unlawful about the confiscation and freezing of NGO accounts, which he said will be restored after investigations.
“NGOs must be transparent and accountable,” he said. Two organisations, ActionAid and the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS), were raided by police in late September. Computers, cameras and mobile phones, among other items, were confiscated. On October 3, Bank of Uganda wrote to Standard Chartered bank directing it to freeze the ActionAid bank accounts. Not long afterwards, GLISS’s accounts were also frozen. Both organisations’ field activities have since been paralyzed and staff salaries remain unpaid. Police said they are investigating the NGOs on suspicion of money laundering. Other circles suggested they had been targeted because they were the channel through which money for political activities opposed to the lifting of presidential age limits was being disbursed.