On April 6, 2017, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) will be observing the Aruu North County by-elections to detect and deter electoral malpractices. CCEDU will report about issues of integrity in the by-election. As part of its mandate to promote electoral democracy, CCEDU utilizes election observation as a method of preventing electoral ills from taking place during elections.

The position of Member of Parliament for Aruu North County fell vacant when the Court of Appeal nullified the election of former MP Hon. Achiro Lucy Otim. As required by law, the statutory deadline for conducting a Parliamentary by-election is sixty (60) days after notification from Clerk to Parliament on the occurrence of the vacancy.

As part of the electoral activities, the Electoral Commission (EC) will accredit observers to take stock of the electoral process. Section 16 (1) (a) of the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Act, provides for accreditation of representatives of political parties, civil society organizations and any other duly registered institutions, to observe electoral activities. Accordingly, the Commission invited written expressions of interest from political parties, individuals and duly registered entities that wished to observe the said processes. CCEDU applied and is one of the organizations that have been accredited to observe the by-elections.

To effectively observe the by-election, CCEDU recruited 10 Long Term Observers (LTOs) from the seven sub-counties of Aruu North and trained them on 7th March, on how to scientifically report about the electoral processes. The LTOs observed pre-election activities including: election stakeholder meetings, nominations and campaigning. Supervisors are required to report once every week.

CCEDU members in the district also provided additional information on the pre-election environment. For purposes of authenticity and accuracy of the election observation findings on Election Day, CCEDU will deploy short-term, long-term and roving observers distributed in all 9 sub-counties that make up Aruu North constituency. Observers were recruited from the seven sub-counties of Atanga, Pajule, Latanya, Laguti, Acholi-Bur, Lapul and Angagura in Aruu County north.

The constituency has a total number of 41,301 registered voters, 7 sub-counties, 64 parishes and 95 polling stations. Short-term observers will be supervised by the long-term observers whowill be roving in their respective sub-counties. Each of the short-term observers will be stationary at one polling station observing all aspects of the election though out the Election Day.

The observers will also be supported by a team from the CCEDU secretariat in Kampala. So far from its observation mission CCEDU is concerned that there is only one woman candidate and non with disabilities in a race of four males. This points to the fact that participation of women and PWDs, is still a major factor in our elections.

In the past, some of the factors that have affected women participation in previous elections include: violence against women, lack of respect for their right to support and choose parties and candidates of their choice, gender inequality in party primaries partly due to patriarchy and structures of political parties, limited access to media and resources.

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In the village where I was raised in mid-western Uganda was a functional Resistance Council (RC), which later mutated into a Local Council (LC) with the adoption of the 1995 Constitution. One of the members of the executive that has for a very long time stuck on my mind was the secretary for defence; he was called Mr Boniface Byaruhanga. Because of his active service, he was later to be commonly known as “Byaruhanga Defence”. He did a super amazing job! God rest his soul in eternal peace.

This man generally kept the village defended and safe. He outwitted petty thieves, burglars and any form of criminals. For some reason, he knew everyone in the village; a village that sheltered slightly more than 800 folks. We felt safe even on those days when we occasionally walked through the thick tree-lined avenues of Kabalega village in the wee hours of the night.

I remember an incident when someone broke into our pantry and stole a sack of onions; on reporting the incident, Byaruhanga retrieved the loot within a matter of minutes. His intelligence was unmatched. His knowledge of the wrong elements on the village was unrivalled. ‘A supreme system’ Local as it might have been, Byaruhanga and his colleagues built a supreme system of knowing who came in to the village the previous day or night, where they were staying, and for how long.

Now, such are the lowly folks that deserve medallic recognition for their service, contribution and accomplishments. Courtesy of functional Local Councils, spring wells were always clean, village roads functional – and residents regularly met to discuss and collectively find solutions to issues affecting them. In fact, the Local Councils were by default ambassadors of Bulungi bwansi (community service). In recent years, all this seems to have suffered a dramatic turn in many places.

Some LCs are loathed as harbingers of scam. Their conduct as they scheme to collect stamp fees from unsuspecting residents is akin to that of Zacchaeus, Jericho’s biblical tax collector. Today, many of them are labelled as collaborators in fraudulent land sales and many other wrong acts. But because we have not had duly elected LCs in more than a decade, those who now claim to be LCs could pass for impostors. And as you know, impersonation and misconduct normally lurk around one another.

Be that as it may, LCs are an important infrastructure for crime control and neighbourhood cohesiveness – we have seen them play this role in the past and they have done it well – at one point. Now, let me quickly turn to the main subject of my writing today. Recently, Mr Museveni called for the installation of CCTV cameras in public places. And by the way, this was not the first time he made such a call.

In 2013, the President ordered the then Internal Affairs minister, late Gen Aronda Nyakairima to install CCTV cameras in the Kampala metropolitan area – covering Kampala, Mukono and Wakiso districts. Grapevine has it that courtesy of the President’s recent directive, we are set to cough a screaming Shs400 billion. A week or so ago, Finance minister Matia Kasaija broke government’s suspicious inaudible manoeuvres on the LC elections announcing that there was no few billions available to conduct the much awaited LC elections.

Ugandans have waited patiently for more than a decade to have legally constituted Local Councils at village and parish level – these have not been forthcoming because, ‘there hasn’t been money’ to hold the elections. Should Ugandans be surprised that it may turn out easier to obtain Shs400 billion to procure CCTV cameras and not find Shs16 billion to fill the local council structures? Is it surprising that as a country, we would rather pay out billions to procure machines rather than invest a fraction of those billions in people (LC) structures? Would we rather machines replace us or would we rather have humans work with machines? We need the cameras to work with a robust human infrastructure on the ground.

In this case, CCTV cameras would only complement the work of functional structures such LCs, neighbourhood watch, community policing to keep crime at bay. If the human structures are either not in place or not functional, then sadly, technology may not be of much help. Understanding of human worth May be, what we need is not entirely in the installation of CCTV cameras, but an understanding of our own collective social and human worth. Let us not fall for the conjecture that cameras will guarantee safety and security in our communities. Our neighbours and relatives are plenty, good enough to do that ‘human’ job – better.

I know no matter how much we cry and froth the decision has been made. It is final. No amount of writing, talking or counter-arguments may help us take a step back and think through the logic. So, CCTV cameras it is! May be this is the time to realise that the horse has bolted and all we need to do is say – two prayers. The first prayer should open our eyes to our supreme human worth over machines; the second prayer should be aimed at breaking that familiar jinx that comes with such large public procurements – here in Uganda. Let’s pray that that sprite does not strike again and we end up with the usual monkey business.

The writer is coordinator, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda

This Article was published by The Daily Monitor

Last week, the government announced that it is postponing the LC-I and LC-II elections, which were scheduled on March 17, to 2018. The postponement, which the government attributed to lack of funds, angered some political and civil society activists. However, DR LIVINGSTONE Sewanyana, the chairman of the Citizens' Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (Ccedu), tells Sadab Kitatta Kaaya that it offers a chance to amend the recently passed Local Governments Act, which scrapped secret voting in favour of lining up behind candidates.

How do you look at the government’s decision to postpone the LC elections?

It gives us enough time to lobby for the necessary amendments to the law (Local Governments Act) so that we can have, whenever appropriate, elections by secret ballot. This of course would include amending the law either following a court decision or a bill being brought before Parliament. It should also afford government an opportunity to raise the necessary funds given that they had earlier argued that they didn’t have enough funds to hold elections by secret ballot. That is why they preferred lining up [behind candidates], which they argued was a cheaper option.

Why is CCEDU opposed to the section of the law that provides for lining up behind candidates?

CCEDU, as a point of principle, welcomes the elections because we consider them to be important to grassroots democracy and effective dispute resolution. Ugandans have lacked legitimate leaders at that level for so long. However, the proposed mode of electing LC-Is and LC-IIs by lining up runs contrary not only to agreed principles but the spirit of elections. We go back to the Constitution, Article 68(1), [which] provides for elections to be held by secret ballot, be it presidential, parliamentary or local government elections. However, Article 68(6) gives room to government to hold elections by another method provided the process will ensure free and fair elections. Still, the Constitution does provide for elections, presidential, parliamentary and local government to be held on the same day unless it is impracticable. CCEDU is opposed to holding [LC] elections under the Local Governments (Amendment) Act on a number of grounds. One, when they amended the law, they gave one justification; that they had financial difficulties and, as such, holding elections by secret ballot would be very expensive and unaffordable. One wonders why in 2016, when Uganda held presidential, parliamentary and local government elections – that is [for] LC-III and LC-V – these elections [LC I and LC-II] were not held. Because the Constitution [says]; “Unless it is practically impossible.” They did not justify why they did not hold those elections then and what was impracticable at that time. Two, the LC-Is and LC-IIs, we are talking about have both administrative and judicial responsibilities. At the level of a community, unlike for a Member of Parliament [MP] or president, everyone knows the other person. When you say I have to stand behind my preferred candidate, it presupposes a lot of things like, I have made a choice among members of the community. That creates a wedge between me and the rest of the community and that is very dangerous because [it can be] a source of conflict. Number two, there are certain functions that are supposed to be performed by particular people within a community who definitely will find it difficult to line up behind candidates [and] effectively disenfranchise them. This is substantiated by the various voices we have heard in our ongoing consultations in Kalungu, Kabarole, Busia, and Gulu, etc. These are people who have said that if elections are to be held by lining up, they will not vote. Take, for example, priests, church leaders... they cannot be seen to discriminate among their faithful. They cannot say that, ‘I am going to stand behind candidate X as opposed to candidate Y.’ What does that mean in terms of their roles? You think about a shopkeeper who ordinarily has to sell his or her items to all members of the community and you are asking him or her to choose between one resident or the other.

What does that mean to his/her business?

Let’s take it to another level. When we elect [LCs], they are not only supposed to play the administrative role of endorsing your application for a visa or passport, but they also play the judicial function as LC-I court and LC II courts. As courts, they are supposed to be impartial and unbiased. It is human [nature]; there is no way someone whom you didn’t line behind will treat you impartially.

Where do you get all these fears because lining up behind candidates was the practice in the early days of the NRM?

One needs to appreciate that when we lined up shortly after NRM had just come to power, we were under a movement system of government and, as such, we did not have the political differences that we have at the moment. If you recall, it was just a matter of X vis-à-vis Y, and it didn’t really matter what your political affiliation was. So, ever since that time, our society got so fractured; it has never been as polarised as it is now. Number two, at that time, there was a high degree of romanticism with NRM; today it is a different story. The level of discontent, the level of discomfort is unheard of. But also in terms of best practices; today, the world over, there is no country where elections, even at the smallest level, are held by lining up. Beyond that, even at the school level, even in the parties, even in the NRM itself which is vouching for lining up, it does not use lining up as a method. They all use secret ballots. So, there is no justification whatsoever for one to say, “Because in 1989 or in [2001] we lined up, it is still possible today.” Based on the voices of the people, it is already very clear. What this is going to do is to reverse the gains we have made. Which are these gains? Ever since we started campaigning for electoral democracy, we have been working to reverse the voter apathy that this country has been experiencing. If you go back to the elections of 2006, 2011 and 2016, you realise that the campaigns we have had as CCEDU [such as] Honour your Vote, Votability, and the recent one (Topowa), have had one major effect – to reverse voter apathy. Voter apathy has been reversed from as low as 40 per cent to 59 per cent and now 68 per cent in the recent elections which was unprecedented. We are likely to again reverse that because we foresee so many people, especially the youths and elites, who are very likely not to vote. The women, on the other hand, have their own set of concerns. They don’t want to find themselves in situations of conflict with their families. What that means is that, if I am a member of the family and I am not comfortable voting a particular candidate, I have one option; to abstain because if I don’t, then, naturally, that would bring conflict in the family. We think that this is a recipe for disaster to have elections by lining up. Let’s go back to the argument that government has been peddling [on] why they want [LC] elections to be held by lining up. They say they cannot afford the cost it would take to hold elections by secret ballot. We have had a discussion with the Electoral Commission and various other people [and], according to the consultations, there is a possibility of even holding these elections by secret ballot more cheaply than they anticipate. We are talking about people who know each other in the community. They have said, “Look, if you don’t have money to print ballot papers, for us, what we only need are ballot boxes [and] proper standardised paper [so] we [can] write the names of the people we prefer among the candidates, we cast them in the ballot box and, at the end of the day, you count.” How about those that can’t write? You thumb-print. The proposal is that you have different colours because elections now are according to political affiliation. So if NRM is yellow, DP is green, FDC is blue, etc; the only difficulty would be with the Independents. So, you can say, white is for independents. The point is, if I am vouching for Mr Kitatta who is party X and colour X, the person can thumbprint on that piece of paper which is of that colour and casts the vote. It is possible to actually hold these elections by secret ballot more affordably. There is also the issue of time. With a secret ballot, you designate the period, say from 7am to 4pm, and people are free to come, cast their votes, go away, and come back, if they wish, at the time of counting. With lining up, the assumption is that everyone who is going to vote has to be in that line from morning up to when everybody is done.

The question is; how do you handle that?

This is the problem that was made known to us by the EC; it is a dilemma they are facing. It poses practical problems which are very difficult to deal with here. But there is also another aspect. With a secret ballot, you can designate in one particular location various polling stations with different ballot boxes, because in some areas they don’t have a lot of open space where you can vote from. In 1989 [and] 2002, some of those places were there but today, they are not. Just look here [Human Rights House, Nsambya], that used to be a polling station [but] it has been taken over. So even the spaces where people can line are very limited. In fact the EC was telling us that if people have to line, the whole village has to come, [but] in some places there are no places where people can line. So, whoever amended the law did not visualise what it means. There are people that have been wondering why these arguments are coming now. I think this is one of the most unfortunate situations because, whenever we have laws before Parliament, civil society is called upon to give views. Normally, the Clerk to Parliament, through the different committee clerks, writes to us inviting us to give views on a particular bill. No such consultation ever took place; everyone just woke up on the question of the amendment because the recent amendment was about two days for registration and so on. That’s when people realised that actually, in 2015, this particular law was amended to remove secret ballot and provide for lining up which was a very unfortunate situation.

Are you then planning to challenge it in court?

Yes. Among the measures we have taken is to reach out to the authorities. We wrote to the president an open letter [which] we disseminated widely to political parties, government officials, the Speaker [of Parliament], etc. Secondly, we are carrying out public consultations and so far, everywhere we go, [about] 85 per cent have one unanimous voice that, “If we are going to line up, we are not going to vote.” We have also had consultations with the EC and are also planning to reach out to the attorney General. But on another level, we think that the law has to be amended. So, we have put together a legal team and very soon we shall be lodging a petition in court to challenge this particular legal provision. The public consultations you talk about remind me of a similar exercise you conducted ahead of the 2015 amendment of the Constitution. You didn’t achieve anything out of that exercise. Where do you get the confidence that the current campaign is not in futility? Of course there are no guarantees that the views [from the consultations] will be heard and respected, but the reason why we are carrying out these public consultations is to gauge the attitude of the people towards these elections. We don’t want to impose our own ideas onto the population because, many times, we are challenged that we the elites in Kampala sit and think for the population. We wanted, before we go to court, to generate views from the public because our concern is disenfranchising the population. We wouldn’t be happy to see [only] 20 to 30 per cent of the population vote. If you remember the 2016 elections, after registering a very high turnout at presidential and parliamentary elections, at local government elections, LC-V and LC-III, the numbers were very annoying, and it is likely to be worse [for the LC-I and LC-II elections] because a number of people will be disenfranchised. So, the reason why we are going out there is to find out from the people what they think about this mode of election because if they overwhelmingly come out and say, “Oh yes, for us we shall vote whether it is lining up or secret ballot,” then definitely we wouldn’t have the legal challenge. We are also raising a petition; people are signing a petition, and we are going to bring it to the attention of Parliament. So, we are saying, there are no guarantees here; we could still have these elections by lining up but the message will have gone out clearly, people will have spoken, and when the court also speaks to it, then whatever the outcome, we think we will have done our job. Our concern is that Ugandans are entitled to vote, and voting means making informed choices without undue influence, which of course lining up is all about.

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 So, what if the late assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi was taking his children to school, or worse yet, taking his lovely wife to the hospital to experience one of the most amazing and magical wonders of this world – giving birth, what then? Do these cold blooded assassins have any conscience?

What kind of blood flows through their horrid veins, I wonder; it must be much greener and more smelly than foul bile. He was treasured by many but yet loathed by some; it seems that is what charisma does to creatures that have dried raisins for balls; you want to take away power from the people in this country because you have none of your own. Sorry to bust your bubble but the more you lose yourself to this world the more your blood will become greener, filthier and drier in your veins. It’s a pity what’s been happening in this country of late, Uganda seems to be dulling away by the second. First it was the Muslim clerics, then the Senior State Attorney, Joan Kagezi who was shot twice in the neck while her children were with her in the car.

Then it was Mama Fiina’s husband–Maj Muhammad Kiggundu - who was shot dead along with his body guard last November. Then, the massacre in Kasese happened – still not sure exactly what and how it happened, then came the death of a six-month-year old baby in Kawanda early last week – purportedly strangled by a housemaid, who took off to Koboko, only to be arrested after a few days. There have been numerous reports of poisoning of innocent families, school children and so much more! How have we become as shameless as dare devils?

We are no longer slaughtering people at night, because may be we think the Lord above is not watching; now we have resorted to shooting our fellow human beings in broad day light. How dare does one shower someone’s child with more than 30 bullets as if we were celebrating his death-day? What kind of society are we leaving behind for the next generation to inherit? Our children are living in fear of how tomorrow will be, “Will mummy come back home safely from work?” “I hope daddy arrives safely at his workplace, God please protect him.” They are having sleepless nights wondering whether their parents will be safe and not end up like their classmates’ father or mother, because they don’t know how they will be able to live without them. Violence in our society is on the rise.

We all need to have a little more caution and conscience in the lives that we are leading now or else we might destroy one another until there are only skeletons left roaming in this country. We need to protect ourselves in order to progress as a nation, both socially, economically and politically. In order to ensure our security and wellbeing, we need to be mindful of all our leaders, from the bottom to the top of the pyramid. Are they there to protect us or forsake us, to guide us or lead us astray, to fight with us or against us?

Our society and economy have to advance, we need to move forward. Violence has never really been the answer, has it? This brings me to the pending LC 1 and LC 2 elections; that are long overdue. I will still stress that taking us back to lining-up to elect our local leaders instead of secret ballot is archaic and preposterous. It is a recipe to inciting more violence in our society. Many people are already infuriated with the proposal; why do we want to enrage them further?

We all have a right to secrecy when it comes to voting our leaders, I personally wouldn’t want to wake up in the morning to a gruesome and blood-spattered sight of my family, relatives or friends having been slaughtered, poisoned or showered with a million bullets because I decided to line up behind a preferred candidate X. Lining up to vote can only be one thing – disastrous. No one should have to live in fear of being slaughtered or murdered for doing a good thing like Kaweesi was doing, No way! The Pearl of Africa better clean up its act immediately, and fast, before we all become wandering skeletons in our own land.

Mr Kaheru is the coordinator, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda.

This story was published by The Daily Monitor

Politicians have slammed government over the decision to postpone the Local Council I and II elections, describing the move as ‘continued presence of undemocratically filled structures at village and parish levels in Uganda.’

The Coordinator of Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), Mr Crispin Kaheru said in a statement: “The lack of government commitment to conduct the LC I and II elections in the most democratic ways can further be seen through the adoption of an archaic law of voting by way of lining-up proposed by government instead of voting by secret ballot in the LC elections.”

The remarks come hardly a day after Daily Monitor exclusively reported the cabinet decision to defer the village elections due to financial constraints. Finance Minister Matia Kasaija yesterday told journalists in Kampala that the elections were deferred because of the hunger problem reported in various parts of the country.

But Mr Joseph Bbosa, who heads a Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) faction, said the move points to disorganisation in the implementation of the budget by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). “One has got suspicion that the present LC situation favours the NRM government because all the present LC officials have been co-opted in the NRM structure. Given the unpopularity of the NRM, that situation would change,” Mr Bbosa said. He added that the delay of the LC elections is intended to keep the status quo under the excuse of lack of funds.

UPC leader, Mr Jimmy Akena said he was not shocked because the resources that were available for budget were not commensurate to what was required by the Electoral Commission. “I have been following the preparations of the LC elections and the requirements by the Electoral Commission closely. It is long overdue but it is important that we have it at some point,” he added.

Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) mobiliser, Ms Ingrid Turinawe said, the suspension of the LC elections is due to lack of the NRM government will and interest to organise the polls. “Ugandans must confirm that NRM and Mr Museveni are not about democracy. Until we liberate ourselves and our country, then we will have the elections and this will be handled by a new government,” she said. Ms Turinawe said: “If they (government) can use Shs6 billion for handshake but they say that Shs10 billion is unaffordable, then it is a disappointment. Is the NRM party richer than government?”

Mr Kaheru said that CCEDU would explore the legitimate option of approaching the courts to ensure that the illegalities being perpetrated by not conducting these elections do not stand any longer. “We are proceeding to petition cvourt to ensure that the law of voting in the LC I and II elections is amended to provide for secret voting as well as ensure that the elections are held immediately,” he added.

This story was published by the Daily Monitor

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