Many folks of the older generation will still call it Burma. Once the name pops up, it will invoke memoires of the 1939 – 1945 world war two. Although unsung, some of our grand parents or great grand parents remain as famous as the English ‘Mad Jack’ who fought in the same war. While Jack earned his fame out of using a broadsword, bow and arrows against the new rifle and tank technology, our grandparents are revered because they either had their military training in Burma or they fought alongside British Commonwealth troops in the most challenging Burmese terrain during the Second World War
When Uganda was getting its independence in 1962, Burma was falling prey to a military coup that has since seen it through different shades of military rule to-date. In 2010, there was a semblance of multiparty elections that were later largely described as ‘fraudulent’. A military backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) declared victory in that election. Millions of Burmese respected the election outcome as a mere continuation of the longstanding full-blown martial rule.
On November 8th 2015, Burma (now called Myanmar) held its widely scrutinised multiparty election under a first-past-the-post electoral system. Prior to this vote, a lot of investment was made to the process – at a legislative reform level, at the administrative level and at a civic competence level. I was privileged and honoured to witness the November 8th historical election.
Conversations with the ordinary people of Myanmar days before the election only revealed one key thing; not withstanding the several false starts that the country had had in the last 53 years, the people’s resolve to make things different and better was insurmountable.
In Myanmar, the recent vote represented the weapon of the hoi polloi to wage war against an opportunistic junta that conveniently wore a smart mask of a political party. Opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) under the leadership of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won the just concluded election with a definite landslide in a vote that has been widely described as contest between the civilians and the military. Uncommon in many autocratic settings, incumbent and military backed USDP graciously conceded defeat, a step that has left the world generally wowed and humbled.
The challenge that lies ahead now is for the new NLD constituted government in Myanmar to champion meaningful reforms. Socio-political and economic reforms that will entrench and guarantee sustained democratic governance for the people of Myanmar.
Some of the questions that will need to be addressed will include reviewing the role of the military in active politics. Currently, 25 per cent of the parliamentary seats are reserved for the military; only military ‘men’ can lead powerful ministries including Defense, Home Affairs and Border Affairs; and of course there is currently no legislative scrutiny of military budgets and expenses. The post election period is filled with a mix of both optimism and pessimism.
What casts a dark cloud on the Burmese political hopes is the current constitutional provision that requires a 75 percent approval bar to amend the Constitution. There is fear that the military in Parliament could stand in the way of any meaningful legislative reforms. On the contrast however, there is an overwhelming confidence that ‘people power’ will triumph over any form of conspicuous or concealed military conspiracies – and Myanmar will move along the path to full democratic reform. With such a troubled past, it is the hope of many that the old Myanmar will not in any way come back to haunt the new one.
If the vote can usher in a new democratic epoch in a decorated junta like Myanmar, then surely, there’s a billion reasons to believe in the power of the vote!
By Faridah Lule
Am I not entitled to something I can call a home in Uganda? This thought kept lingering in my mind the day Col.Dr. Kizza Warren Kifeffe Besigye was again arrested and whisked off to an his unwanted aboard - Nagalama police.
The police force cited the laws under which they arrested the FDC flag bearer on the 15th October 2015 as he was heading to attend the planned FDC party activities . Some of the laws sighted by the force included the Public Order Management Act. The police however conveniently forgot the presidential elections Act, 2005.
The presidential elections Act, section (3) says; an aspirant may consult in preparation for his or her nomination as presidential candidate with in twelve months before the nominationdate, while consulting under subsection 1(a), the aspirant may carry out nationwide consultations prepare his or her manifesto and other campaign materials, raise funds for his or her campaign through lawful means. While consulting, the aspirants shall introduce him or herself to the commission and notify the relevant local council and the police of the area to which he or she goes.
The Public Order Management Act section(8) reads ‘’subject to the direction of the Inspector General of Police ,an authorized officer or any other police officer of or above the rank of inspector, may stop or prevent the holding of a public meeting where the public meeting is held contrary to this act. One of the misconceptions about the law is that one requires police permission to hold a meeting of more than three people.
The former chairman of the Uganda Law Reform Commission Prof. Fredrick Sempebwa holds a different opinion when it comes to the most cited law, the POMA which he says the law is un constitution why because it was passed after a court ruling pronouncing people’s right to assemble, that the people are free to assemble, there is no need for them to beg police to allow them, the role of police is to keep law and order maintain peace and not block assemblies.
According to section 5 of the POMA, an organizer is obliged to give notice in writing to the authorized officer of the intention to hold a public meeting at least three days but not more than 15 days before the proposed date of the public meeting.
Today Dr.Kiiza Besigye might be wondering but very soon the whole country may fall victim of the same convenient misinterpretation of laws. Why can’t our leaders learn from history, those in power are passing laws day and night with or without people’s consent.The implications and reality of the implementation does not cross their mind as they discuss and pass laws.
Those in power, politicians, judges, scholars and the citizens all interpret the laws differently and implementation is also at the discretion of those at the scene.
The un democratic processes are taking the center stage in our political environment. It’s not only the Uganda police force but also the opposition leaders have to pay attention to the internal democracy, otherwise what is happening now the police cells should be expanded to accommodate the large numbers if the situation is not addressed.
The NRM supporters are fighting to the extent of burning people’s houses this is dangerous the leaders have to hide their interest and address the situation. The violent behaviour is caused by the leaders themselves inside the parties, they already made choices and want to impose these candidates by force which is against the people’s will.” Just like O’Rourke puts it, Political discourse has become so rotten that it’s no longer possible to tell the stench of one presidential candidate from the stink of another. I urge all leaders to leave by our motto FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY and NOT BY THEIR STOMACH.
Yet gain, another undressed woman is in the news, as every stomach turns upon watching Zainab Fatuma in scuffle with Police, civil society moans wondering what the worst will be for special interest groups in the 2016 election. What will befall women for example when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law?
Shall we be certain of their participation in the electoral process; we haven’t even mentioned PWD’s, youth, the elderly, farmers, et al.
This FDC Official had seemingly accompanied her candidate but what risks await the many women out there planning to stick in with allegiance to their candidates come the 2016 elections. For now, Ingrid Turinawe and Zainab cases present us with a bitter foretaste of the special interest group abuse, especially in election season.
Our partners at CEONU, WLEDE, FOWODE and WDG through their election observation missions will be aggregating and providing insight into the many incidents of electoral violence that special interest groups find themselves exposed to. On the other hand, we at CCEDU will stay interested in highlighting electoral incidents like Zainab’s which also carry potential to discourage voters from fully participating in the electoral process.
As these events testify, the electoral environment is already getting tense, what citizens need is an authority that will go all the way to protect rather than endanger.
What we have witnessed with FDC Officials Zainab and Ingrid is not only detestable but an awakening alert on what many special interest groups will be bearing in the coming elections. Good thing civil society is committed to dragging these issues into the public light.,
For now,the struggle continues.
Whereas we appreciate that the EC road map is a living document, it is important that the Commission maintains a semblance of predictability of electoral activities and milestones ahead of 2016. Changes in the road map should be made after consultations with relevant representatives of key stakeholders.
Changes in the road map made without consultations may raise suspicion with regard to the motive. The transparency of the Commission is very critical especially in the current political context. It is however important for the EC to widely publicize any such changes as well as ensure that all Ugandans are abreast with the road map to the 2016 elections.
It is also critical to note that some of the changes in the electoral laws brought about by the recent amendments to the Electoral Commission, Presidential and Parliamentary Acts such as: the reduction in polling time from 10 to 9 hours; the increment in candidate nomination fees among others could potentially disenfranchise part of the electorate as well as limit participation of citizens in electoral politics.
People’s space at Hotel Africana was the center of festivity as Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy launched their second voter mobilization effort that will take them throughout the country as they prepare to increase voter interest in the coming 2016 election. .
Led by city comedian Afande Kerekere, the procession was flagged off at YMCA by Father Anastasia Isabirye and went through Buganda road up to People’s space - Hotel Africana, where crowds were treated to performances by Dr Hilderman (of Mazongoto fame) Supu crew and a one Harriet.
The Vice chairman of the electoral commission, Joseph Biribonwa urged stakeholders including CCEDU to remain impartial neutral “I charge all stakeholders to remain non-partisan”, the Vice Chairman also called upon citizens to follow up their registration by voting noting “It's unfair to register, remain with number and not use it." Mc’s Kerekere and KFM’s Catherine Agena treated the crowd to witty engagement as the crowd present braved the mid-day Sun.
Mad Mayerhofer, representing Democratic Governance Facility emphasized CCEDU’s campaign concerns stating “We are trying to reach out to the growing number of people who are apathetic to elections. “
Foundation for Human Rights Director Livingstone Sewanyana also decried the voter apathy and officially launched the effort. The colorful event was punctuated by a performance by Dr Hilderman and a joint public pledge that emphasized the Ugandan commitment to participate in the coming 2016 elections.
The guidelines issued by the EC are of course an essential ingredient to guide a semblance of order in the political aspirants’ consultations. However these guidelines ought to have been framed after due consultations with all recognized political parties.
The EC should have in the first instance convened a forum through which it should have sought the views of the parties on the whole question of candidates’ ‘consultative meetings’ even though it is within the EC’s prerogative to issue such procedures.
Although the guidelines are lawful instructions and are binding on all political parties and aspirants, the process of developing them from the surface of it does not seem to have been as consultative as it should have been.
Guidelines of such a nature should have enlisted the enrichment and input from political parties to whom they were majorly being framed for. Short of a thorough consultation, the guidelines may still be interpreted or misinterpreted as simply targeted.
Perceptions of such nature are likely to generate a lot of resistance towards the proposed guidelines as well as act as an impediment to their enforcement.