KAMPALA- Seven out of 10 Members of Parliament are opposed to the lifting of the Presidential age limit from the Constitution, according to a new study. This is entailed in a new survey released by the Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy on Uganda (CCEDU) on Parliamentary Attitudes to lifting Presidential age limit conducted between September 16 and October 7, where 185 were interviewed.

The MPs in the report also supported the restructuring of the Independent Electoral Commission (EC), arguing that this will guarantee the public free and fair elections in future. The proposal to restructure EC was high on the agenda of last year’s opposition’s proposed electoral reforms only to be rejected.

“In this survey we conducted via telephone, 73 per cent of MPs said they would not support a Constitutional amendment eliminating age limits for presidential candidates. We also found out that 77 per cent of our MPs want appointment of commissioners to the Independent Electoral Commission reviewed,” CCEDU chairperson, Mr Livingstone Sewanyana, said.

CCEDU sought answers on whether MPs would support the lifting of the presidential age limit and electoral reforms. There has been a raging debate sparked by NRM supporters to lift the presidential age limit to allow President Museveni rule for as long as he wants. According to the Constitution, one is not eligible to contest for presidency if they are above 75 years.

Argument Critics of the lifting of the presidential age limit argue that it is meant to keep President Museveni in power. The proposal to lift age limits if backed by Parliament means that President Museveni, who is 72, will not be eligible to stand for presidency in 2021 because he will be past the constitutional age limit. There have also been calls to reform the Independent EC that is perceived to be biased and in favour of the incumbent President who is the body’s appointing authority.

Commissioners are appointed by the President but are subject to Parliament’s endorsement. Speaking to journalists during the release of the survey, Sewanyana said CCEDU has also written to the President to consider the legislators’ views for the good of the country. National Democratic Institute (NDI), executive director Simon Osborn said NDI partnered with CCEDU to conduct the survey.

“The target population was 324 directly elected MPs (excluding government ministers and special interest group MPs). NDI randomly selected 196 MPs from a stratified sample of the target group by geographical region, MP mandate and political affiliation and interviewed 185 MPs (94 per cent),” Osborn said.

“The survey is representative of the target population at a 98.5 per cent confidence level with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 per cent. The survey took a maximum of 40 and minimum of 35 minutes per MP,” he explained. Before the February 2016 general elections, there were several calls for reforms to the Electoral Commission Act to have commissioners appointed by an independent body that represents all the political actors.

The Kyadondo East by-election has been one of the most hotly contested by-elections in recent times. The by-election which was a result of a court nullification of Apollo Kantinti’s February 2016 election, attracted five male candidates, namely; Apollo Kantinti, Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu (Bobi Wine), Muwada Nkunyingi, Sowedi Kayongo and Sebalu Sitenda. Kyadondo East had 93 polling stations and nine (9) parishes namely: Bulamu, Gayaza, Katadde, Kabubbu, Kiteezi, Masooli, Nangabo, Wampewo and Watuba.

The by- election was marred with malpractices such as voter bribery and giving out of gifts which is an offence under section 68 (1) of the Parliamentary Elections Act 2005, campaigning past 6:00pm, which contravened the Electoral Commission regulations, violence and defacing of election posters, which is an offence under Section 82 (2) of the Parliamentary Elections Act 2005; punishable by imprisonment or payment of a fine. All these issues affect the integrity of the electoral process and may somewhat not guarantee a free and fair electoral process.  As a leading player in advocacy for electoral reforms, observation of general and by-elections and civic/voter education campaigns, the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) was in Kyadondo East to observe the election day processes and promote the integrity of electoral processes by detecting and deterring electoral malpractices.

CCEDU has a special mandate to observe Elections in conformity with the relevant international instruments governing election observation and the Constitution and National Laws of the Republic of Uganda1. Launched on 19th August 2009, CCEDU is a broad coalition that brings together over 850 like-minded civil society organizations and over 25,000 individuals to advocate for electoral democracy in Uganda. The CCEDU secretariat is hosted by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI).

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. CCEDU carries out its work in all districts and regions of Uganda.

In line with this vision, CCEDU observed the pre-election period including: candidates’ nomination, update of the voters register, the display of the voters’ register, and campaigns and is now observing the Election Day processes namely: Arrival of polling materials; opening, voting, closing and counting processes. This statement, therefore, presents the Final observations of the conduct of Election Day processes on arrival, opening, voting, closing and counting processes of the CCEDU Election Observation Mission in Kyadondo East Constituency.

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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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