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

The Heads of Missions of the EU Member States, the EU Delegation and Norway have announced Pamela Judith Angwech as winner of the EU Human Rights Defenders Award 2017. The annual European Union Human Rights Defenders Award (EU HRD), now in its sixth year, is granted by the EU and its member states in Uganda, and Norway, to recognise the achievements of Human Rights Defenders in Uganda.

Angwech is Founder and Executive Director of the Gulu Women’s Economic Development & Globalization (GWED-G), the region’s largest grassroots human rights organization, focused on women and youth, since in 2004. GWED-G has programs in a number of domains, including health, human rights, peace building, economic empowerment and livelihoods, psycho-social support and counseling, and research and advocacy.

Angwech was recognised for her leadership role to promote the rights of war-affected women and girls who are suffering as a result of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) war in Northern Uganda. She is at the forefront of advancing women’s and girl’s rights and gender equality in the district of Gulu, Nwoya and Amuru through empowering grassroots groups.

Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) are individuals who, individually or with others, act to promote and protect universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms. These include civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. The work of HRDs has a positive impact on a country’s development and is essential for encouraging the respect for human rights as recognised by international human rights standards and agreements.

HRDs need to be protected from interference and reprisals while executing their work. The HRDs rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly need to be safeguarded to enable them to defend others.

Past winners of the EU HRD Award include:

Gerald Kankya (2012) of Twerwaneho Listeners Club, Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala (2013) former Coordinator of Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ), the three joint winners (2014) Gladys Canogura of Kitgum Women Peace Initiative, Assistant Commissioner of Police Christine Alalo, Head of the Uganda Police Family and Child Protection Unit, and Mr Mohammed Ndifuna, Director of the Human Rights Network Uganda, Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana (2015), Founder & Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) and Robert Sempala (2016) of the Human Rights Network of Journalists (HRNJ).

This year’s winner, Angwech, was hailed for leading an organisation that supports over 400 women’s groups to ensure women and girls have equal rights to resources and livelihoods and are given a political voice and her extensive experience with community-based human rights policy and post-conflict development. The committee noted her strong and sharp voice on zero tolerance to sexual and gender based violence following up on cases within the judiciary system.

She has been working on this evil over the past few years and has cumulatively responded to 670 GBV cases- most of them with positive results for the victims. She was hailed for her visibility and audacity to speak on behalf of the voiceless in various human rights platforms at local and national level, including the International Conference for Great Lakes Region, the UN1325SCR Coalition platform, the regional GBV and District Working Groups on Gender and VAWG, UWONET, CEWIGO and HURINET.

The 2017 edition of the award ceremony was hosted last week under the auspices of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Uganda. “It was the start of a long journey of more than 10 years, without knowing where it would bring you,” remarked Henk Jan Bakker, the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Uganda at the event. “It seems to me that you knew very well that the road you took is not important, but the traces you leave behind. And you’ve left many, many traces behind, showing the way forward.

Your voice is loud and clear, not only in Northern Uganda but also in various human rights platforms in Uganda and abroad. We, your European allies, are listening to you and we remain committed as your diplomatic Human Rights Defenders advocates”.

Four other human rights defenders were recognised as finalists

  • Rose Mary Jane Nangobi: Founder and Director of Slum Women’s Initiative for Development in Jinja, an initiative saving women from being evicted from land on which they dwelled.
  • Adrian Jjuko: Ugandan lawyer and Executive Director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF). Adrian is a leading figure in the legal struggle against discrimination in Uganda.
  • Crispin Kaheru: A human rights defender and coordinator of CEDDU, Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda.
  • Gard Benda Ntegyereize: Executive Director of World Voices Uganda (WVU), a locally founded NGO that strives to respond to human rights violations. Gard spearheaded campaigns against land grabbing in the Albertine region despite threats against his life from land grabbers and speculators.

Article Published by The Independent

The European Union (EU) has awarded three Ugandan activists for their outstanding role in defending human rights. Pamela Judith Agwech, the executive director of Gulu Women’s Economic Development and Globalisation (GWED-G) was the overall winner of the 2017 European Union Human Rights Defenders Award. Adrian Jjuuko, the executive of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum - Uganda (HRAPF) and Crispin Kaheru the coordinator of Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) were first and second runner-up respectively.

Crispy Kaheru

Kaheru, in 2016, conceptualized and ran an innovative and motivational voter education campaigns called topowa (don’t give up) thru CCEDU that persuaded a record 67% Ugandans to vote. He also filed a successful amias curiae application, swearing the sole affidavit, which set a precedent for independent actors who wish to participate in litigation on their own initiative in Uganda.

This story was published by the Newvision

Parliament recently passed the Uganda Communications Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill gives the Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) minister wide discretionary powers in a sector that is essential to freedoms of Ugandans. In amending section 93(1) to give the minister power to determine regulation guidelines for the telecommunications sector without seeking parliamentary approval, MPs inadvertently reneged on their constitutional mandate of conducting oversight on the Executive. The original spirit of Section 93(1) was to check the powers of the minister when making regulations that affect the right to freedom of speech and communication.

To contextualise the gravity of the matter, the minister now has powers to make regulations relating to the use of any communications station, fees payable upon the grant or renewal of a license, the classification or categories of licenses, etc. Sensing the danger that the Bill poses to citizens’ communication, journalists and civic groups raised a red flag over the minister’s overarching powers. Unwanted witness has, for example, filed a suit in court challenging the entire Bill.

The manner in which government rushed to table amendments to a law that was less than two years old is further evidence of the concerning spirit behind the amendments. If it could not even stand a test of two years, how long is it anticipated to last now after what many have termed as worrying amendments? In effect, the amendments give the minister power to make regulations over private broadcast stations and how proprietors of private stations should operate them. Last year, at the height of the election, government banned live coverage of Opposition political party activities.

The reasons given were not convincing. If such an action was done prior to the adjustments in the law, what will happen with the sweeping powers bestowed upon the ICT minister? In an era where live reporting is a norm, giving unchecked discretionary powers to the minister to draw guidelines gives the government extra legroom to muzzle aspects like live reporting. Previous unilateral actions such as the closure of CBS FM in 2009 and the Internet shut down on polling day last year by the UCC are evidence that checks and balances on guidelines regulating the telecommunications sector are critical in ensuring citizen’s rights to freedom of expression and access to information.

To justify the shut down of the Internet last year, the regulator claimed that the blockade was a judicious step taken to ensure national security but deciding whether national security is threatened or not cannot be at the whim of the UCC executive director or the minister. The representatives of the people while legislating in Parliament need to reflect on whether the amendments are pro-citizen or pro-State. This may re-awaken their conscience of accountability to the electorate and their own survival in politics. Incidents of politicians being denied airtime on broadcast shows, with broadcast stations often crumbling under stifling directives from government officials are rife. MPs have been victims of such high-handed orders of government officials and they can still be.

Already, ordinary citizens cannot participate in live radio debate programmes (bimeeza) after government slapped a ban on them in early 2005. It is only fair and prudent for all actions taken in the name of protecting the citizens and the security of the country to be subjected to Parliament approval. Just before President Museveni came out to extend the deadline for SIM card registration, we witnessed the preliminary effects of the Amending the UCC Act. The minister of ICT seemed to act in contempt of a Parliamentary motion that was moved by Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Ms Winnie Kiiza, to allow for an extension of the SIM card registration and verification exercise.

Notwithstanding the motion, the minister directed UCC to switch off all unverified SIM cards, causing panic and tension among the public. Before the President assents to the amendment Bill, it is my hope and prayer that he returns it back to the house to ensure that the Constitutional oversight role of Parliament is reflected in Bill. Mr Kaheru is the coordinator, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda.

By Crispy Kaheru

This story was Published by The Daily Monitor

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