On Thursday, Ugandans in seven new municipalities elected six MPs in Sheema, Nebbi, Bugiri, Apac, Kotido and Ibanda, and a mayor in Njeru.
There were reports of violence and the usual allegations of rigging, bribery and voting beyond the permissible time.
Unlike in previous elections, one ingredient that Ugandans were accustomed to was missing – observation of the elections and constant reporting by the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy (CCEDU) on happenings across the country.
CCEDU, a coalition of thousands of civil society organisations and individuals spread all over the country, has since 2009 built capacity to observe and report on elections, and has in a number of cases helped to blow the whistle on misdeeds during elections.
Over the years, areas of conflict built up between CCEDU and the Electoral Commission, with some officials of the Electoral Commission accusing CCEDU of being partisan in the way it observes elections.
CCEDU insists that it is objective in its election observation and voter education practices, and cites a number of examples of when it has productively fed into the positive conduct of elections, including when they mobilised Ugandans to register for the 2016 elections.
CCEDU has also pointed out that as the Electoral Commission accuses it of being partisan, an accusation it denies, it is not lost on many that the Electoral Commission has itself been accused by a number of players, chiefly the Opposition parties, of being partisan, in favour of the ruling party.
The fallout climaxed with the suspension of CCEDU’s license to conduct voter education and observe elections, which happened in the lead up to the village elections that took place earlier this month.
As a result, the village chairpersons and women leaders elections, coupled with the elections in the municipalities that happened on Thursday, have taken place without any official observer.
It is important to note that Uganda is party to a number of regional and international arrangements that recognise observing elections as an important ingredient of electoral democracy. It is an important way to ensure the movement towards free and fair elections. The Electoral Commission cannot be referee and observer at the same time.
Even during national elections when foreign observers come into the country, they come too late and remain thinly spread on the ground, unable to tell the real picture.
This is why the Electoral Commission and CCEDU should speedily resolve this impasse and reinstate citizen observation of elections as soon as practicable.
Article Published by The Daily Monitor.