Game Changers (GCs) is a unique loose network of dynamic Ugandan civil society activists, passionate about innovative advocacy ideas on human rights, democracy and good governance. The network provides a platform for promoting synergy, cooperation, collaboration and sharing of best practices among civil society activists in Uganda to enhance their advocacy abilities in the ever shrinking operating environment. Under their given mandate, the group would like to issue a statement on the second anniversary of the Supreme Court Ruling of the Presidential Elections Petition2016 as follows;
On February 19th2018, the Citizen’s Coalition on Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) wrote to President YoweriKaguta Museveni an open letter highlighting the need for political and electoral reforms before the next general elections. CCEDU implored the President toestablish an independent Constitutional Review process whose findings should be implemented before the next general elections. CCEDU also implored the President to launch a National Dialogue process that would provide Ugandans with a platform to dialogue about the issues that have affected their livelihood for the last 55 years since independence.
The reforms broadly target seven(7) pieces of legislation: the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995; the Presidential Elections Act 2005;the Parliamentary Elections Act 2001; the Electoral Commission Act 2005; the Local Governments Act1997; the National Youth Council Act 1993; and the Public Order Management Act 2013.
The Supreme Court on March 30th 2016 made a ruling on the Presidential Election Petition No.1 of 2016 (AmamaMbabazi v Museveni&Ors) and acknowledged electoral reforms as a prerequisite for free and fair elections in Uganda. The Supreme Court tasked the Attorney General to follow up the recommendations made by the Court with the other organs of the State, namely Parliament and the Executive and report back to the Court after two years. It is expected that in August 2018, the two years will elapse. Only four months are left to the expiry of the time the Court gave the Attorney General, but he has not updated the public on the progress of the much expected recommendations.
The Supreme Court Justices recognized that from previous electoral petitions (10 years) they had been making recommendations to improve electoral processes, but the Government has not taken interest in implementing any of their recommendations. As a result, the Supreme Court made 10 reforms in the area of elections generally and Presidential elections in particular.
In 2016, the Justicesrecognized that many of the calls for Electoral reforms had remained unanswered by the Executive and the Legislature. At the hearing of the 2016 Electoral Petition, the Justices allowed a group of 15 prominent Constitutional scholars from MakerereUniversity, Kampala to participate in the case as amici curiae. The dons presented to the Justices issues that had made it practically impossible to hold free and fair elections in Uganda and the Court considered these proposals. Based on the dons’ considerations and the issues raised in the Election Petition No.1 of 2016 (AmamaMbabazi v Museveni&Ors), the Supreme Court made the following recommendations:
1) The Time for filing and determination of the petition: The Justices recommended that the period be reviewed and necessary amendments be made to the law to increase the days of listening and winding up the petition from 30 days to at least 60 days to give Court sufficient time to prepare, present, hear and determine the petition.
2) The nature of evidence: The Justices recognized that the use of affidavit evidence in presidential election petitions is necessary; however on its own may be unreliable as many witnesses tend to be partisan. The justices recommendedRules amendment to provide for the use of oral evidence in addition to affidavit evidence with leave of court.
3) The time for holding fresh elections:The Court concluded that it was difficult to require the Independent Electoral Commission to hold a free and fair election within the 20 days currently stipulated in the 1995 Constitution, after another has been nullified. A longer and more realistic time frame should be put in place.
4) The Use of technology: While the introduction of technology in the election process should be encouraged, the Supreme Court recommended that a law to regulate the use of technology in the conduct and management of elections should be enactedwithin time to train the officials and sensitize voters and other stakeholders.
5) Unequal use of State owned media: Both the Constitution in Article 67 (3) and the Presidential Elections Act, 2000 in section 24 (1), provide that all presidential candidates shall be given equal time and space on State owned media. The Court recommended that the electoral law should be amended to provide for sanctions against any State organ or officer who violates this Constitutional duty.
6) The late enactment of relevant legislation:We recommend that any election related law reform be undertaken within two years of the establishment of the new Parliament in order to avoid last minute hastily enacted legislation on elections.
7) Donations during election period: Section 64(9) of the Presidential Elections Act, 2000should be amended to prohibit the giving of donations by all candidates including a President who is also a candidate, in order to create a level playing field for all.
8) Involvement of public officers in political campaigns: The law should make it explicit that public servants are prohibited from involvement in political campaigns.
9) The role of the Attorney General in election petitions: The Attorney General is the principal legal advisor of Government as per Article 119 of the Constitution. Rule 5 and 25 of the Presidential Elections (Elections Petitions) Rules,2001 require the Attorney General to be served with the petition. However, the definition of “respondent” in Rule 3 of the Presidential Elections (Elections Petitions) Rules as it currently is, does not include the Attorney General as a possible Respondent. Further, Rule 20(6) of the Presidential Elections (Elections Petitions) Rules, provides that even when a Petitioner wants to withdraw a petition, the Attorney General can object to the withdrawal. The law should be amended to make it permissible for the Attorney General to be made Respondent where necessary.
10) Implementation of recommendations by the Supreme Court:The Justices noted that most of the recommendations for reform made by theSupreme Court in the previous presidential election petitions have remained largely unimplemented. It may well be that no authority was identified to follow up their implementation. Therefore, The Court ordered as follows; “the Attorney General must follow up the recommendations made by this Court with the other organs of State, namely Parliament and the Executive”.
Whereas theHonorable Justices made their recommendations,the mandate to call for a Constitutional Review Process lies with the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs. Other state organs such as Parliament and the Executive have to enact the necessary laws to improve electoral processes.
On behalf of all Ugandans, we, implore the following institutions as follows;
1. The Attorney general: To update the public on progress made by the state in implementing the Supreme Court Recommendations, since, they are a matter of public Interest.
2. The Parliament: To cooperate with all stakeholders in ensuring that the necessary legislation on use of technology, proposed electoral reform amendments among others is expedited and passed in time before the next elections.
3. The Executive: To support the Judiciary and Parliament and other agencies to ensure citizens’ demands for electoral reforms are responded to and expedited without jeopardizing their (other state organs) independence.
To track the progress being made with regard to enacting reforms recommended by the Supreme Court, the Game Changers will embark on a protracted advocacy campaign that will mainly focus on two areas of the Supreme Court ruling;
1)The use of technology in elections and 2)Involvement of public officers in political campaigns.
We believe that technology is an integral tool which, when implemented properly, will broaden franchise, modernize elections, but most importantly cut the alarming election costs and increase transparency of the electoral process for citizens.
We implore citizensto join hands with us in demanding that the Government takes the necessary steps to implement the stipulated recommendations with a view of improving electoral processes in the desire for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Uganda;
For God and My Country