Recent elections held in the districts of; Jinja, Arua and Bugiri registered incidents of election violence, with Arua recording the worst cases pre-election, D-day and post-election. The Arua municipality MP seat fell vacant after the gruesome murder of Hon. Ibrahim Abiriga in June 2018.

The final day of campaigning in Arua was epic. All political bigwigs on either side of political divide; NRM Party Chairman and President of Uganda, Yoweri K Museveni, opposition leading light Kiiza Besigye, and one threatening to take the shine -Kyadondo East MP Hon Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu aka Bobi Wine among others on the last stretch making a case for their preferred candidate.

The ensuing energy from rival camps, brewed provocations, and later a brawl that recorded some of the worst cases of torture and human rights abuses ever witnessed in an election exercise in the country.

The stretch marks of a highly flammable process had quite revealed early. The Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda CCEDU, an election observer body was suspended by Electoral Commission on 4th July 2018 – weeks before the Arua municipality by-election. ‘What was government hiding?” some would ask.

By the time the storm had withered , thirty-three people including Members of Parliament had been arrested by security forces. Later, these were charged with treason for allegedly attempting to harm the president of Uganda following allegations of the President’s convoy being pelted with stones by supporters of the opposition.

The suspects appeared in court in a helpless health state. Notable MPs, and other members of public were seen with grievous bodily injuries allegedly resulting out of torture while in custody of security agencies.

30-year-old Micheal Abiriga is one of the victims that escaped death narrowly after he was shot in the chest.

Andrew Natumanya, an official photographer of Kyadondo East MP Hon Robert Kyagulanyi shares his ordeal in the Arua fracas.

As he recounts, he points out a statement made by the honorable Kyagulanyi at the final rally in Arua that could have sparked off the events that followed.

In various parts of the country and abroad, streets had taken on popular anti regime response over the treatment of legislators and citizens in Arua.

The Force responded with force.

The fourth estate not spared

Yet to be confirmed reports indicate, five people lost their lives in the election-related violence around the Arua Municipality by-election held on 15th August 2018. Yasin Kawuma, the driver of Hon Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine, was the first victim, shot dead in his boss’s pickup truck two days to the election in Arua Municipality.

Tracing the past, perhaps predicts a clear view of what was to happen. On the eve of the burial of the slain Arua MP Ibrahim Abiriga, the deceased MP was highlight of a burial that defied traditional custom.

During a press conference at Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Civil society organizations condemned the torture of the Arua by Election victims.

The head of state wasn’t all too impressed. In his official social media handles, he attacked the police blaming the scuffle on weak management.

The president also warned human rights organizations and referred to them as agents of imperialists’ interests.

Civil Society Organs however disagree.

President Museveni recently in a response to the speaker of parliament, Kadaga’s letter over torture meted to MPs and civilians by the army recently; praised the army and also revealed that he ordered the UPDF in what he termed as to “protect people and property” of Arua.

Questions on how country can conduct herself better in election exercises were posed.

Early this year, CCEDU Coordinator Crispin Kaheru wrote to the president calling for electoral reforms against the backdrop of the same recommendations from Supreme court.

CCEDU Coordinator Mr. Crispy Kaheru has decried the recent increase in post election violence in Uganda.

Analysts argue that beyond the legislative tier of reforms, public civic education is equally crucial as a measure to sustain values like democracy, justice and peace in electoral practices.

 

 

 

In order to effectively and efficiently fulfil its constitutional mandate, the Electoral Commission has put in place a Strategic Plan covering the Financial Years 2015/16 - 2021/22 to guide it in the performance of its functions.
This approach has previously enabled the Commission to conduct general elections in a smooth manner for it provides for phased funding of key election activities thereby easing funding pressure on government given the limited resource envelope.

During the period under review, the Electoral Commission’s strategies will be anchored on six Key Result Areas, namely:

  1. an institutionally strengthened Election Management Body (EMB);

  2. free, fair and transparent elections;

  3. credible, accurate and accessible National Voters’ Register;

  4. effective and comprehensive Voter Education;

  5. an efficient service-oriented/ stakeholders focused Election Management Body (EMB); and

  6. a strengthened Monitoring and Evaluation Framework.

This Strategic Plan was developed after consultation and involvement of various stakeholders in a transparent manner and the Commission pledges to continue involving them in its implementation. Secondly, the Commission reviewed its previous Strategic Plan and carried out a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis; stakeholder analysis, value scan, operational environment, that is Political, Economical, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal (PESTEL) and developed a balanced scorecard..

CCEDU Coordinator Mr Crispy Kaheru was among the CSO heads who attended the launch.

Download full Strategic Plan.

Following the Council meeting of the East and Horn of Africa Election Observers Network (E-HORN) that happened on 28th November 2018, our Coordinator Mr. Crispy Kaheru was elected to Chair the Board of the Network.  E-HORN (http://www.ehorn.org) is a regional, independent, non-partisan, inclusive network of East and Horn of Africa election observation and monitoring citizen organizations and institutions.  It is established to link election observation networks and individual monitoring organizations in the East and Horn of Africa, with its Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

Dr Audax Kweyambe of TEMCO -Left hands over the chair of E-HORN to Mr Crispy Kaheru of CCEDU-Right, 28th November 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Download full Communiqué.

Following the Electoral Commision's decision to suspend CCEDU from conducting election-related activities on July 4th 2018, a meeting was held today 24 December 2018 between CCEDU and the Electoral Commission (EC), both parties resolved to immediately renew their partnership and adopt an agreed upon communication strategy.

The Electoral Commission will in due course formally communicate on the renewed engagement and cooperation.

Dr Livingstone Sewanyana shares a light moment with the EC Chairperson Justice Byabakama Simon Mugyenyi

Statement released by the Electoral Commission following the meeting

 

By Crispin Kaheru

Elections are a democratic process for eligible citizens to choose individuals/parties to represent their interests. The choice could also be on accepting or rejecting a proposition, like in the case of referenda.

It is important to note that Uganda has generally been holding regular presidential, parliamentary and local government elections since the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution, every five years, with the exception of the LCI and LCII elections.
But the freeness of elections in Uganda has come under scrutiny. The cost of participating in elections, for example, is prohibitive. To get nominated for a parliamentary seat, one has to pay Shs3m.

Election periods are often fraught with tension, intimidation, and threats that at times breed violence. Whether elections in Uganda are fair can be answered by the number of court challenges that happen after each election. Presidential elections have been challenged in court thrice since 2001, with the 2011 one touching off a deadly wave of Walk-to-Work protests. 

In 2016 alone, more than a third of the MP results were challenged in courts of law. Since 2016, Uganda has had about 35 by-elections, and more than 25 of these are back in the courts of law for one reason or another. 

Crispy Kaheru

Research World International found that about 45 per cent of Ugandans actually do not believe that elections can lead to change of presidential power. When people begin to feel that democracy doesn’t deliver, then its legitimacy becomes difficult to defend – and that is what is happening.

Interest in elections has grown exponentially while faith in elections has declined terribly. Now you have an average of about eight persons running for presidential; six for a Parliament; and 11 for a local government seat. But you also have only about three out of every 10 Ugandans coming out and voting – especially during by-elections and local government elections.

We have elections that are akin to security operations. Each of the recent elections has seen security agencies deployed to play different roles. In some elections, security personnel campaign for candidates. In other cases, they ‘spy’ on the electoral management body, while in other cases, they wrestle with the electorate. Keeping law and order during elections is only a pleasant exception on their part. The current system is such that elections are an affair of the rich gang.

Half of the electorate (about 8 million people) cannot afford three meals a day, yet you have to pay handsomely to run for any elective position. In 2016, for instance, at Parliamentary level, about 50,000 people collected nomination forms, but only about 2,500 returned the forms with the requisite money – to run for about 450 positions.

While the world is moving to secure voters’ privacy and confidentiality, Uganda is still conducting elections by way of lining-up at the Local Council I and II levels. While there is a global shift to encourage citizen participation, open governance and public scrutiny of elections, you have situations where media and election observers are obstructed from following electoral processes.

You have voter educators being casually banned. You have a situation where the credibility of the national voters’ roll (a cornerstone of free and fair elections) continues to be a sticking issue. You have elections (LCI and LCII) conducted, but whose results remain unpublished and ungazetted as required by the law.

After elections, only a handful of MPs make an effort to visit their constituencies. MPs habitually only return to their constituencies during the last six months of their term and rarely respond to the legislative demands from their electorate. Last year, 85 per cent of Ugandans asked their MPs not to amend the Constitution (to remove presidential candidates’ age limits), but 75 per cent of the MPs voted to lift the presidential age limits. The culture of “winner-take-all”, political exclusion, impunity and social divisions continue to undercut representative democracy. To make elections work again, we have to fix these and many other issues. We have to fix the credibility of the electoral management body and of the voters’ roll. 

We have to strengthen public scrutiny of elections, streamline the role of security agencies in elections and strategically integrate relevant technologies in elections. Above all, we have to make deliberate efforts to socialise values such as integrity, trust, honesty, and confidence. We can’t trust government alone to do all this. Stakeholders must come on board throughout the electoral cycle.

Mr Kaheru is the coordinator, Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy Uganda (CCEDU)

Article Published by The Daily Monitor