By Crispy Kaheru
Coordinator Citizen Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda
I have heard some people speak as if the 2016 elections are over. This is inaccurate; 2016 is not yet over! Firstly, there are certain elections that are not yet held, including the important Local Council I elections. Secondly and most importantly, there are still unresolved issues – call them questions. And that is partly the reason why there is the presidential election petition number one of 2016 in the Supreme Court.
The prevailing thick air hovering over the pearl of Africa is not as a result of global warming – it is as a result of the unsettled questions on the context under which the elections were held – leave alone the polling day dynamics. While many Ugandans have silently felt contented that their vote counted, others feel impotent – that their vote did not count. Some braved the scotching sun; others braved the heavy rains especially in northern Uganda all in the name of fulfilling their civic duty, to vote. They didn’t do this in vain, they did this in anticipation that their vote would be honoured just like how they respected the rallying call, to go and vote. There are sections of the population which continue to argue that the 67% voter turn out (for the presidential election) as declared by the Electoral Commission may not be reflective of the long winding queues seen across the country; some people contend that more voters could have turned up to vote.
Anyway, back to the main point: democracy begins to take shape when the people with opposing views begin to listen to each other, think through challenges together and collectively propose and act on solutions. Democracy begins to happen when protagonists talk to their critics – in a constructive way. Democracy begins to make sense when the state looks out for the oblivious – and resolves the concerns of the few (or many) in just, fair and accountable ways.
The state has an inherent responsibility of being accountable to both the majority and the minority. Many times, unfortunately, there is always an allure of disregarding the misgivings of the few in favor of self-assurances of many. This is not only wrong; it is undemocratic and morally inept.
Whether the February 18th election is being contested by a few or many, let’s find it within our hearts to genuinely listen to the complaints arising. Let’s give everyone a fair hearing. The healing process becomes quicker and more sincere if we create spaces in which people can speak about what worked and what didn’t work in the polls. Closing spaces and opportunities through which the citizens share their experiences actually makes the political wounds more septic.
Both the state and its people must be working hard to heal any wounds and scars left behind by the elections – and we can do it. The post election tension characterized by distrust, ethnic anxieties, use of inflammatory language and conflict in some places exemplify a seething post election context which each of us must (without doubt) work to end.
As we work to end the currently existing tensions, we must be aware that beneath this uneasy silence, there lies joy that cannot be celebrated fused with a lack of satisfaction that is discernible on the other hand. Some people feel that the palpable power they hold has been sapped away by both circumstance and design. And again, we must work to reverse such veracities.
The enthusiasm of Ugandans towards the 2016 election must now be transformed into a post-election conviction to take the country forward, peacefully and in a united manner. It will certainly not be an easy ride, but together we can make it.
Remember, the task ahead is never as great as the power within you!
By Charles Mwanguhya
Gen Kale Kayihura has found himself shoved to the centre of the controversy surrounding the project to keep President Museveni in power, never mind that Mr Museveni worked personally hard to win the declaration by the Electoral Commission on February 20 to earn the title President-elect 2016-2021 while still holding the belt of reigning President.
On Thursday, the police chief released a long ‘memo’ to the media, three odd pages in which he lambasted the media for misrepresenting the circumstances surrounding Opposition politician, Dr Kizza Besigye and his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).
The General talks of a “continued campaign of distorted information, speculations, biased and unfounded as well as unfair criticism of police actions as well as outright lies regarding the handling of Dr Besigye by the police.”
Then in the very next paragraph, Gen Kayihura states, “First of all we wish to state from the very beginning that the responsibility for the actions that police has taken involving Dr Besigye, during and after the campaigns lies squarely on his shoulders and that of his unruly and indisciplined supporters.”
In the paragraph after, Kayihura launches into the media which he blames for running “propaganda” noting that “in all police actions, it has acted lawfully professionally, conducted ourselves with utmost restraint in the face of incredible provocation.” In three paragraphs, the IGP, a lawyer, has covered a myriad of contradictions, from a denial, to an admission and then to finding someone to blame!
The General knows quite well that opinion journalism has significantly receded in the past few years, newspapers, the harbingers, of most opinion that media broadly gets lambasted for, have in them some strict editorial processes, but more importantly are increasingly being forced to chase after real time TV.
TV, unlike radio and newspapers, cannot have news if it does not have images and most of the debate about police conduct in the recent electoral process is dictated by TV footage.
In old journalism, we were often told, “a picture is worth a thousand words” meaning that a single image is enough to summarise Gen Kayihura’s entire essay about the “lawfulness, professional and utmost restraining” conduct of the force he commands as well as the “provocative, lawless and unruly” conduct of those the job forces them to confront.
The dousing in pepper spray of photo journalist Isaac Kassamani in Kasangati the other day, did not require “media propaganda” to tell the world, the police was targeting the wrong suspect.
The restrictions on Besigye, until he is produced and charged in court, will not be interpreted in any other way other than an extension of a political scheme to frustrate his political ambitions. Besigye, and his FDC party, believe they were cheated in the February 18 elections, they claimed before the election that police assumed a partisan political roll to tilt the ground to their disadvantage, they believe the incidents on Election Day itself provided them an opportunity to show the world they were cheated and that post-election, police are denying them the opportunity to gather evidence and to prove their case.
The police know that endless investigations are often the worst irritant to a judge and the certain trigger of stillbirth of many good cases political or otherwise. To avoid the embarrassment of court once the case has been presented, police choose to apply a limited scope of the law so called “preventive action” while trying to impress it upon the public that there is not just an intention but actual commission of a crime. Surely then, the IGP cannot turn around and blame the media when it questions the spectrum of application of the law vis-a-vis the constitutionally given rights in Chapter Four of the Constitution.
By offering political answers to legal questions, Kayihura should be forgiven by borrowing the phrase made famous by former US president Bill Clinton’s campaign, it’s not the man, it’s the job stupid.
By Elizabeth Nantamu.
In the just concluded electoral process for the Presidential and Parliamentary race held on 18th February 2016 in Uganda, the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni won with a little more than 60% of the 9.2 million votes cast followed by his perennial rival Dr. Kizza Besigye with about 35.3% votes according to the Electoral Commission (EC).
Although Ugandans were largely calm and peaceful during and after the elections, the country was under a very tense atmosphere with the deployment of police and army personnel alongside a display of security machinery almost everywhere in the country.
After another term of five years, the Election Day started in a peaceful manner with enthusiastic voters strolling to their polling stations early in the morning to make their voices heard on their future leaders at the presidential and parliamentary positions through the ballot. The electoral process that was fairly smooth had a 65% voter turnout. Unfortunately, there was a general delay of opening polling stations which was stretched to late afternoon hours due to the late arrival of the important election equipment especially in Kampala and neighbouring districts. The opening of the stations at odd times of the day in some stations made it impossible for citizens to cast their vote in time and this was the beginning of the break down of the electoral process.
This was followed by the blocking of the cyber communication of the social media platforms and the movement of on-line money transactions using mobile phones, was another violation of freedom of expression and access to information to Ugandans; a decision taken by the Uganda Communications Commission.
The media houses were constantly warned against announcing any definitive results until the EC, had verified and confirmed them. The stakeholders at the national tally centre were also denied the opportunity to verify results at the primary level as opposed to the aggregated manner, an approach used by the EC. Surprisingly, in the run up to Election Day, the EC had no objection to organisations and individuals having parallel tallying centres of course which could be used to verify the results but with no mandate to declare the final results.
Irrespective of the alleged ambiguous method of tallying the incoming results at the EC tally centre as was witnessed by the representatives of the opposition, the EC Chairperson insisted that no one had the right to declare results before him as per the Constitution of Uganda. Apparently, the exercise was concluded with declaration of a winner before completion of the tallying process in both positions of the president and some parliamentary candidates.
Voters attached to a few polling stations in Makindye division and Wakiso district unfortunately did not vote on the Election Day due to damaged ballot boxes caused by the voters who became restless and turned violent.
The number of arrests of the leading opposition leader under no legal charges together with a couple of other Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) leaders in the guise of preventing them from causing civil disobedience is debatable. In so doing, the Uganda Police stormed the offices of the FDC in Najjanankumbi on Friday, arrested the leaders claiming to avoid FDC supporters from getting together with their candidate which assemblies they considered unlawful.
The FDC presidential candidate was put under preventive arrest in his residence to stop him from allegedly leading protests against the incumbent’s win that could turn violent while the party officials were collecting and tallying their votes at the set up party’s tally centre. The extensive use of police force in denying the FDC leaders from free movement and meeting trampled on the political freedoms as well as their basic right to associate.
The trust in the EC is the cornerstone of an electoral process. With all these omissions and actions alleged to be deliberate rendered the elections exercise not free and fair and trampled on the democracy of Uganda and its citizens. Many people have further lost trust and confidence in the functionality of the electoral system most especially under the current EC for its lack of independence, transparency and the poor administration of the electoral process. With some degree of inefficiency displayed by the EC returning officers showed lack of a thorough training; the lean numbers of polling officers were also poorly facilitated whereas they were working under very strenuous conditions.
Ugandans deserve better! The call for reinstatement of presidential term limits and for political reforms should be taken serious. With the Presidential Elections Act, the playing field will never be levelled if the incumbent decides to stand. The Act allows the incumbent to use state facilities attached to his/her office during the campaign period.
By Crispy Kaheru
This being a completely ‘new’ register, the Electoral Commission should have taken a lot more precaution to ensure that it is clean and accurate. It would defeat the whole purpose of transiting to a new register if it the new register is found to have the underage, ghosts, or foreigners.
It is very disheartening that there are people who registered themselves under the national ID registration and confirmed their registration status during the update and display of that national register and now, they are not on the register. This raises fresh questions around the credibility of this new register.
The alleged 15,277,196 voters figure may not be logically convincing considering the Ugandans demographics.
It is critical that the EC widely publicizes the voters’ register in order to ensure that the public scrutinizes it further. Should it be found that many people are not on the register, the EC should find it fitting to open up the process at least for one week so that those who are not on the register are able to get on.
Admittedly, there seems to be a looming problem arising out of the voters register and if the problem is not conclusively resolved, it risks messing up the entire election.
The writer is the coordinator, Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy. (CCEDU)
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.