Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) has trained and deployed forty five (45) accredited election observers ahead of the June 29 2017 Kyadondo East Constituency by-election. The election is as a result of a Court ruling that nullified the February 2016 election of FDC’s Mr. Apollo Kantinti on grounds that the Electoral Commission did not comply with electoral laws then.

CCEDU election observers monitored the pre-election period including: candidates’ nomination, update of the voters register, the display of the voters’ register, and campaigns. The observers met with various stakeholders, including Electoral Commission, Uganda Police Force, candidates, political parties, civil society groups, religious institutions, among others.

On Election Day, CCEDU will station observers in all parishes to cover at least 50% of the 93 polling stations in Kyadondo East Constituency. There are nine (9) parishes in the Constituency; these include: Bulamu, Gayaza, Katadde, Kabubbu, Kiteezi, Masooli, Nangabo, Wampeewo and Watuba. Polling day observation will focus on: opening, voting and closing processes.

This pre-election statement presents the preliminary findings of the CCEDU Election Observation, highlighting key observations and conclusions. CCEDU will provide Election Day statements and a comprehensive election observation report will be produced within a month after the election

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As the delegates from UN, humanitarian agencies and governments’ representatives arrive in Kampala today for the global solidarity summit on refugees on Friday, the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) has urged world leaders to reiterate their collective responsibility to end violence and instabilities. CCEDU, an umbrella non-governmental organization for groups advocating for electoral democracy, states that violence and instabilities are the main causes of refugee outflows.

“Beyond pledging support, participating delegates from across the world should make use of the summit to reiterate their collective responsibility to ending violence and instability, which are the main causes of refugee outflows,” CCEDU, notes in a statement issued by its coordinator, Crispin Kaheru.

The summit, the organization says, should be a major milestone to change the narrative ‘from mere humanitarian assistance to long-term development of refugee host countries like Uganda.' “Aware that each one of us is a candidate for asylum seeking in one way or another, let this summit be an inspiration for each of us to contribute in our own humble ways to the cause of refugees who are hosted in Uganda,” it states. Currently hosting over 1.2 million refugees of which 900,000 are South Sudanese.

Uganda needs $8b (sh28 trillion) to continue caring for the displaced and host communities in the next four years. Others are from DRC, Burundi, Somalia, Ethiopia and Rwanda. Uganda is seeking to raise $2b (sh7.1 trillion) at the summit to be jointly hosted by President Yoweri Museveni and UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres.

A fresh flow of South Sudanese refugees into Uganda through the northern region started last July following renewed fighting between two factions of government forces – one loyal to president Salva Kiir and another backing his vice Riek Machar. A fresh conflict propagated along tribal lines erupted hardly a year after Kiir and Machar signed a comprehensive agreement in August 2015 to end the fighting that started in December 2013.

The unending fighting between forces under the command of the two principals in the country’s divisive politics has wrecked the early years of political independence of the world’s newest nation and denied her a chance to enjoy the fruits of self-rule achieved from Sudan in 2011.

About 3.5 million people have been forced out of their homes and thousands killed in the brutal conflict in a country blessed with minerals, including huge petroleum deposits, but cursed with selfish leaders.

But the endless stream of South Sudan refugees since last July into Uganda has stretched service delivery to breaking point in the host communities, and threatened to erode the generosity of Ugandans towards the exiles. With about 2,000 refugees arriving in Uganda from South Sudan every day, it is expected that the country will receive a further 400,000 exiles by the end of the year.

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The Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) is concerned that the Kyadondo East by-election is eclipsed by three key issues: voter bribery, campaigning past the regulated time and defacing of election posters. These issues tantamount to electoral malpractices and CCEDU urges concerned authorities to respond to them as such; with a view of preventing them from re-occurrence as the polling date of June 29th 2017 draws closer.

CCEDU’s vision is to realize a Uganda where the principles and practices of electoral democracy are upheld. Its mission is to advance integrity and citizen participation in Uganda’s electoral processes; through election observation, electoral reform advocacy and raising civic awareness on electoral democracy. Campaign time: According to guidelines issued by the Electoral Commission, candidates are permitted to hold campaign meetings up to 6:00pm.

The regulation on campaigning time is intended to ensure that campaigns take place duringbroaddaylight. CCEDU has however noted with concern that some candidates are campaigning beyond the stipulated time. On June 17th 2017 for instance, CCEDU observed NRM candidate William Sitenda Sebalu campaigning at 7:15pm in Kyetume, Gayaza Parish.While CCEDU urges candidates to respect campaign guidelines, it also calls upon the Electoral Commission to hold those who violate campaign regulations accountable.

This will not only ensure a level-playing field for contenders but will also partly guarantee a free, fair and transparent campaign process. Voter Bribery: Under section 68(1) of the Parliamentary Elections Act 2005, bribery is an offence in the electoral process; and upon conviction one can be liable to “seventy two currency points or imprisonment not exceeding three years or both”. The act of bribery is defined by the Parliamentary Elections Act, as providing money or gifts to influence voters.

CCEDU has noted with concern acts of voter bribery involving: candidate William Sitenda Sebalu (NRM), Apollo Kantinti (FDC) and Robert Kyagulanyi (Indep). The three candidates have been observed giving out money and other material gifts during their respective campaign events. On June 17th for instance, candidate William Sitenda Sebalu gave voters at Kyetume Gayaza to share sh200,000 immediately after his campaign. CCEDU implores the Police to remain keen on such acts that violate provisions of the electoral laws as well as bring the culprits to book. Defacement of Posters: Section 82 (2) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, prohibits the defacing of election posters. Tearing or manipulation of the posters is punishable by a fine or imprisonment or both.

CCEDU has observed that posters of FDC candidate Apollo Kantinti were defaced in Kitetikka, Wampewo, Katadde and Kitti areas in Kyadondo East. In Bulamu, independent candidate Nkunyingi Muwada’s posters were torn. In other instances, CCEDU noted that candidate Robert Kyagulanyi’s posters had been placed on top of other candidates’ posters. CCEDU, therefore urges candidates and supporters to respect each others’ views and remain civil even on Election Day.

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Administration and management of elections is still an uphill task that frustrates democracy growth in Uganda, Justine Mugabi Ahabwe Commissioner Electoral Commission in charge of the eastern region has disclosed.

Mugabi made the revelation on Thursday while addressing a gathering that had turned up for electoral commission stakeholders engagement workshop for the assessment and evaluation of the 2015/16 general elections at wash and wills hotel in Mbale town.

The meeting was attended by members of parliament, office of IGP representatives, development partners, political parties’ representatives, religious leaders, civil society organizations, and officials from electoral commission.“One of the most critical variables for the success or failure of democracy is the administration of elections. In developing countries like Uganda, with low levels of literacy, administration of an election is not an easy task,” Mugabi noted.

She said that despite low literacy in Uganda the new commission will endeavor to ensure transparency, accountability and impartiality at each stage of the electoral process so that the stakeholders can have trust and confidence in results of elections. She said that the commission hopes to achieve this through in-house team spirit and building good working relationship and cooperation with all stakeholders. “For matters that will be beyond this commission’s control, the concerned stakeholders will be approached for appropriate action or solutions,” Mugabi said.

Mugabi noted that there is need of support from stakeholders to ensure that they are developing democracy, so that Uganda can also become a reference point in the management of democratic elections. During the evaluation the meeting also pointed out some of the shortcomings that could have affected general elections ranging from continuous creation of administrative units which disrupted the exercise of reorganizing polling stations.

She also regretted the delayed delivery of the polling kits in some areas of Kampala and Wakiso districts due to a logistical mishap. Asuman Odaka from Tororo observed that there is still need to educate the masses on the impact of commercializing politics in relation to democracy. “To some, Ugandan elections have been turned into jobs where contestants aim to do all it takes to avoid a loss.

Ugandans now have a wrong perception about the electoral commission,” Odaka said He also lashed at electoral commission for using police to intimidate voters and protecting the ruling party in ballot stuffing. Andrew Omara from Uganda people’s congress party appealed to government to adequately fund the electoral commission for it to deliver better services, He said that late enactment or amendment of enabling laws by parliament which left the commission with inadequate time to plan and sensitize the public about the new developments as well as causing extension of some planned activity dates.

“Voter apathy-unlike in the presidential and parliamentary elections which has a voter turnout of 67.62%, there was low voter turn up for the local government elections,” he said. Mugabi defended the presidential election results outcome and said that the electoral commission did not doctor results as most of the opposition claimed. “The commission did its best towards fulfilling its constitutional mandate to conduct free and fair elections in the then prevailing circumstances,” Mugabi said.

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The people of Kibanda North will have to go back to the polls because of the name ‘Tampo’ again taxpayers will part with about 500 millions to have this election out of the way. Its high time government sees the relevance and hears the cry of Ugandans advocating for both political and electoral reforms. Kibanda North is not the only case more by-elections are coming our way due to electoral malpractices and the tax payer will fit the bill at any cost. For Kibanda it was just the additional name Tampo that is taking us back to the polls were complainant Sam Otada said.

Amin was nominated as Taban Idi Amin Tampo and in the voters Register of Bweyale (I-K) Polling station at Bweyale COU in central ward, Bweyale town council, Kibanda North in Kiryandongo district, the registered voter’s name is Idi Taban Amin. This contravenes the Parliamentary Elections Act 2005. More by elections are coming our way and some have already happened due to negligence. Similar case is COA-CV-EPP-0050-2016 is of Hon Wakayima Nsereko Vs. Kasule Robert representing Nansana Municipality and COA-OO-CV-EPP-0094-2016 Electoral Commission vs. Ayena Odongo.

Others who have caused us millions of money are Hon.Wetongoola Rehema who presented fake academic papers on nomination day, Kagoma Walyomu, Moses, Katuramu’s PWDS all dispensed money during the 2016 elections and now it’s the taxpayer to pay for these mistakes. Where is the missing link is it the Returning officers who don’t pay attention to details as they nominate candidates, the National Council of higher education that is compromised? Or it’s the laxity in the law that lets off anyone of the hook so easily when it comes to electoral malpractices.

In Kenya once one is found guilty all the money that government spent on that election has to be paid by the candidate making it hard for candidates to involve in electoral malpractices. Electoral malpractices weigh negatively on legitimacy. In the face of manipulation of results, the eventual winners of the elections are viewed as political flunkies, toddies and mere stooges. They are essentially devoid of the true support and recognition of the people. They might be in office yet the population prays daily for their failure. Electoral malpractices appear to plant the incandescent seed of political apathy leaving a good number of qualified voters disfranchised.

Mr.Kagole Kivumbi, shares same sentiments when he told parliament the as judiciary we encourage alternative dispute resolution rather than court battles that are long protracted and expensive. Peter Sematimba one of the victims shares his frustration, you need good lawyers who cost not less than 50m and the process distracts you from being able to concentrate on your constitution work, Helen Adoa supplements that court cases are troubling it would be better to have alternatives as written by Ibrahim Manzil. Malachy Ugwuanyi a legal practitioner in Nigeria wrote; Electoral malpractices seem to water the xerophyte plant of political godfathers. This is a pitiable situation, where persons or political leviathans convert politics to total business.it involves a situation where rich person/persons sponsor a candidate, but proceeds to use or employ all forms of malpractices to make sure their candidate emerge victorious in the elections, to the detriment of the people.

The right to vote is rather a public function conferred upon the citizen for reason of social expediency. Evidence reveals that the strict adherence to democratic values and ideals will bring about good governance in the country. It’s now one year and four months ever since Uganda went into general elections. There is no sign of government embarking on electoral reforms; I would like to invite government to start on the process of electoral reforms by establishing the constitution review commission before it’s too late.

In 2015 electoral commission had to change dates for nominations to allow the commission familiarize itself with the new law on nomination fees and this happened in during the electoral period. Electoral Institute for South Africa representing expertise in electoral issues indicates that one of the threats to electoral integrity is the late enactment of laws and regulations, tampering with legal provisions too close to the election has a negative impact on electoral integrity and should certainly be avoided.

BY

FARIDAH LULE

PROJECT ASSOCIATE ELECTORAL PROCESS OBSERVATION CCEDU

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