A successful election does not depend solely on what happens on ballot day, the totality of the process must be examined, including preliminary issues such as the nature of the electoral system, Voter organization and Voter education.
Article 1 of Uganda’s Constitution vests all power in the people of Uganda. The people are required to exercise their sovereignty in accordance with the law. In order to exercise this power, the people must be informed. Voter education creates awareness and knowledge among the electorate and spells out the roles of the stakeholders in the whole electoral process. Voter education is an important aspect that promotes the credibility of an election because it empowers citizens with knowledge on how to exercise their right to vote in any election.
A polling official checks for the details of a voter in Kaboong during the parliamentary elections in 2017.
According to the post-election evaluation undertaken between April and July 2016 by ACACIA, a consultancy firm in collaboration with the Electoral Commission, the 2015-2016 general elections registered the highest voter turnout of 67.6%. This was explained by strong voter mobilization strategies laid down by both the Electoral Commission and 26 civil society organizations out of the 72 accredited. In the end, 15,277,198 voters were on the voters roll. Out of the 15 million who registered, 10,329,131 people voted. In other words, 4,948,067 didn’t participate in the 2016 general elections. Who are these people? let’s assume we have the security personnel keeping law and order, journalists, local observers, electoral staff, those admitted in hospitals, doctors on duty, Ugandans in the diaspora and prisoners. If we still go by the current laws these people will still not exercise their right to vote, the question is why register if you won’t vote.
The study also found out that there were high numbers of invalid votes (477,319) registered in 2015-2016 general elections. Some of the challenges highlighted in the study were that the massages were not pre-tested both the Electoral Commission; and civil society had no time to do that. For the commission to register a low number of invalid votes, there is need to intensify voter education in the rural and hard to reach areas such as Karamoja, Amudat, Ntoroko ,Kalangala, Buvuuma Islands, Mayuge etc. CCEDU observed that voter education was inadequate in these areas due to the limited budget allocation accorded to the activity during the election period. The Constitution clearly spells out the relevance in Article 61 (1), which mandates the Electoral Commission to carry out voter education .A good percentage of those intending to contest in 2021 are focusing on raising money to facilitate their campaigns forgetting that if the voters are not sensitized they might either stay home or vote and cause invalid votes. Chances are high that the candidates might fail to attain the required 50% of the total votes cast, which might cost the country billions of shillings as we go in for election re-runs.
Reason why voter education should have started yesterday and on a continuous basis The commission should revise its strategy and reconsider the recommendations by different election observers, the consultancy firm (ACACIA) which mainly suggests that EC should use the existing field structures of parish and sub county election officers coordinated by district registrars to conduct continuous and sustainable voter education especially during periods with less electoral activity. The job descriptions of district registrars and their deputies need to be revised to emphasize voter education as a core and continuous responsibility and appraisal should be conducted on such. The Electoral Commission should also consider mobilizing civil society organizations such as CCEDU that have traditionally been undertaking this noble task and support them to be the providers of voter education countrywide. In 2015, observer reports noted that the amendments to the Presidential elections Act and Parliamentary Elections Act were enacted in August, 2015 and October, 2015; the EC had already prepared and publicized a voter education manual which was based on the provisions of the principal Act indicating that polling would close at 5:00pm. That information remained on the EC’s website till polling day, 18th February, 2016 despite changes in the law on closing time which had been reviewed to 4: OOPM.
BY LULE FARIDAH
Analyst Elections &Learning
Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU).
As we celebrate the International Women’s Day, 2019, CCEDU re-affirms its commitment to supporting the elimination of barriers to women participation in political processes – especially elections. We implore relevant state structures to institute the much-needed reforms that further encourage women to be at the forefront of political processes in Uganda.
We would like to see reforms that regulate campaign financing in order to make it possible for women to run for elective offices – even with minimal resources. We want reforms that rid our elections of violence, because we have found out that violence in elections mainly affects women; it discourages them from participating in electoral processes.
In brief, we want to see an electoral environment that makes it possible for women to participate in determining the future of their society without feeling or being disadvantaged in any way.
Happy International Women’s Day!
Crispin Kaheru, Coordinator,
Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU)
When the sea clashes with the rocks, it is the clams that suffer, so do the Portuguese say to describe who suffers when two seemingly powerful beings clash. In fact, Africans have put it better; “when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” The proverb has particular resonance to the current goings-on between Uganda and Rwanda where rising tensions between the two countries threaten to hurt opportunities for citizens of both countries.
The last time I checked, both Rwanda and Uganda were sort of conjoined twins given their identical ethnic and social make-up. It is not quite clear what has changed, since. Both nations are bound together by shared history, kinship ties that reach back hundreds of years, including kindred, ancestral lines. Besides, Rwandans are Ugandans and Ugandans are Rwandans – whichever way you look at it – legally or socially.
The said tensions between the two countries are probably akin to the occasional family fights. They happen from time to time. While they might not always be that dramatic, no family is immune to those random quarrels. After all, a shared gene pool plus family history plus big brother Joe setting house rules that the rest of the siblings don’t contend with, does not always make a neutral family house. When confronted with such a situation, please google: ‘How to de-escalate fights among family members’ or better still, ‘Tips for handling family disputes’. You will find one or two helpful strategies; but you will also see the extent to which family conflicts can be emotionally wrenching and painful especially to the children involved.
Rwanda and Uganda are pretty much one family. Some people have argued that the row between Kampala and Kigali is merely an attention shifter. Others actually think it is real. I am not privy to the facts and details, but I know it doesn’t smell good at all, for the citizens of both countries. Real or perceived, it is not a funny joke to tell in a region that has had a pattern of conflicts.
Mr. Crispy Kaheru
No matter how sour the Rwanda-Uganda feud might be; mature conversations, keeping it generally out of the ‘kids’ view, and refusing to name-call would be a more responsible option to take. Unfortunately, this is now being splashed all-over the place.
The on-going altercations, quarrels and antics between the two countries are simply toxic interactions fashioning emotional damage among the citizens of the two countries in the short, medium and long run. In any case, the ordinary citizens of the two neighboring countries don’t seem interested in whatever jostling that is going on at the top level. Statements and actions of ordinary Rwandans and Ugandans over the last couple of weeks affirm one thing – they don’t want war. Ordinary citizens in both countries just want to have a normal life and go to work and raise their children well. They don’t want to get embroiled in mêlées that they didn’t start; they don’t want to get entangled in conflict that they will not easily end. Above all, they want peaceful communities. It is incumbent upon leaders of both countries to seek out and follow every possible way of avoiding any disruptive approaches to dealing with the prevailing tensions.
The leaders of the two nations owe it to their citizens to look beyond what creates differences, but rather what brings them together. They owe it to the current and future generations to defuse the rising tensions before the situation runs out of hand.
Unfortunately, if Rwanda and Uganda don’t quickly re-establish friendly, brotherly relations, they both run a risk of cooking themselves into a savory meal that external forces could have for dinner.
No one wants to live in a state where his or her life depends on the mood of their leader. No one wants to live in fear – not Ugandans; probably not the Rwandans.
My last hope is that the two countries will seek a peaceful option to sort whatever it is, once and for all – in the interest of their respective citizens.
The citizens want inclusive identity!
By Crispy Kaheru
The Electoral Commission is established under Article 60 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution and mandated under Article 61 of the same Constitution to organize, conduct and supervise regular free and fair elections and referenda, among other functions. As an evaluator of the Commission’s mandate my work began on 11th December 2018 at hotel Africana, when the roadmap towards 2021 elections was launched by the prime Minister of the republic of Uganda, Rt.Hon. Dr Ruhakana Rugunda together with the Commission’s Chairman and his team of Commissioners. According to the roadmap, the deadline for the country to enact enabling laws and the code of conduct for political parties/organizations is Tuesday, October 30, 2018. If the Government keeps within this timeframe, the Commission will be able to run its activities, basing on any amendments as approved by Parliament. We are now in March (of 2019), but there are no signs that enacting the enabling legal framework is about to commence. Can we, therefore, conclude that the Government will conduct elections in 2021 in disregard of the recommendations on electoral reforms handed down by the Supreme Court in 2016? What would happen when the same judges or same Court receives another presidential electoral petition challenging the 2021 presidential elections on similar grounds? Could this justify nullification of the elections?
The Electoral Commission’s five-year strategic plan for the period July 2012-June 2017 guided the conduct of the general elections in 2015/2016. The Commission was directed by recommendations of the Supreme Court following a presidential election petition filled by Kizza Besigye challenging the outcome of the 2006 presidential election. In this case, the Court highlighted critical areas for attention and improvement in the conduct of elections. However, many of the Court’s recommendations were never enacted into law.
The fluctuating dynamics of elections in Uganda drives the narrative on the changes in the electoral process, to help voters understand what to expect when they go to the polls ahead of the 2021 elections.
The Minister in charge of constitutional affairs, Hon. Kahinda Otafire, has reportedly stated that his Ministry has no money to facilitate the constitutional review process which incorporates electoral reforms and urged the Ministry of Finance to allocate the money to his Ministry, without which, he argued, his Ministry can not do much. Instead of Parliament calling on the line minister of finance to re assure the country that the ministry will facilitate the process, they are busy discussing Kyaligonza and miss curvy!! Cry my beloved country. How did this sneak onto the agenda of issues to be discussed in Parliament? Yes, his actions were uncalled for, but Parliament has also not played its role of driving the discussion on Electoral Reforms.
Despite the launch of the roadmap the Commission has urged the Government to make money available for them to implement the roadmap with no response to date. Are we really ready for the upcoming general elections or not?
One of the assumptions made by the Commission in its roadmap was that Government will provide timely and adequate funding for the strategic plan and general elections. All stakeholders will embrace and support the strategic plan by the financial year 2020/2021. For the 2021 elections, the estimated total number of districts shall be 141, municipalities (80), counties (200), sub-counties (2000), parishes (9500), villages (65,200) and polling stations 35,000 compared to the 28,010 polling stations we had in the 2016 general elections. These figures will only be confirmed after the Commission carries out demarcation of constituencies and electoral areas and reorganization of polling stations, capturing of demarcation and reorganization of (returns?). All this has to happen by Sunday, 12th May 2019. The relevant Certificate of Availability of Funding from the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development is crucial at this point in time. Given that the roadmap has not yet been funded, the activities to engage, raise awareness and increase participation of key electoral stakeholders in the priority areas of the electoral cycle, hangs in balance.
The Council on Foreign Relations notes that, the 2017 elections in Kenya indicate that Africa is yet to overcome the curse of governance by the so-called big man. Current examples of big men elsewhere on the continent who subordinate the interests of their countries to their own include Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila – are you sure?- please tone down. Kabila and Mugabe are now taking care of their families with little or no influence in the electoral process of their country.
Analyst Elections &Learning
Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda. (CCEDU)
Two weeks ago, the Witzards Media Foundation organized a debate between university students and civil society organisations. The students were asked to suggest ways in which voter bribery could be stopped as a means of improving electoral processes. Majority of the students said it was difficult to get rid of voter bribery from our elections because Ugandans are generally poor and anybody who offers salt, sh500, sh1,000 has to be welcomed because of the biting poverty. Civil society protested this position from the students arguing that in the past our parents and their parents were poor, but had high moral values and believed in hard work not free handouts. The students would not budge they insisted poverty would drive voter bribery to greater heights with coming elections.
Students categorise the young enthusiastic voters in Uganda, and if they believe that nothing can be done to stop voter bribery, then improving electoral processes in Uganda is still a daunting task.
Voter bribery and generally monetization of elections is not new in Ugandan politics. Having observed the 2016 general Elections, the Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) documented several cases across the country. I will cite a few examples of voter bribery that happened during the 2016 elections. In Buyonjo Village, Gadumire sub-county, Bulamogi County in Kamuli district, voters were being bribed with money ranging between sh2,000 and sh5,000 per voter.
In Bulamogi North West Constituency, one candidates’ agents bribed voters with money ranging from sh10,000 to sh20,000 per voter. In Kamuli, Jinja and Mayuge it was common practice for candidates to buy food, refreshments and alcohol for voters at their rallies. Whereas these candidates argued that in African tradition it is difficult to host people and you do not give them food, when it comes to elections this food is interpreted as a bribe. A bribe is anything that can sway a voter’s choice from one candidate to another.
Ms. Charity Kalebbo.
At Jinja Secondary School polling station some candidates bought food for the Electoral Commission officers, this too can be perceived on two fronts. It can be regarded as a kind gesture, but in the wake of an election, it can be viewed as a means of softening the hearts of the Electoral Official to alter the results in favour of a particular candidate. At St. Gonzaga Primary School polling station and Jinja Secondary School polling station in Jinja, a candidate offered the polling officials sh1m each, if they could help him alter the DR forms in his favour. Thankfully, the polling officials rejected the offer and instead alerted the CCEDU and European Union observers who increased vigilance at the two polling stations.
In Rukungiri Municipality and in South West Ankole particularly at Ruhoko Health Centre 11 polling station, Kabagyenda play grounds polling station and Nyamisha Polling station cases of voter bribery were observed. In Bushenyi district one prominent party chairperson supplied sh20,000 for fuel to over 200 boda-boda cyclists. Several candidates also gave out T-shirts to lure voters to turn-up at campaign rallies and vote for them on election day.
During the 2016 elections, CCEDU further observed that politicians often sunk money into SACCOS because they viewed them as organized groups that could easily sway more voters in their favour. Whereas sinking money into SACCOS benefits them because they are able to increase on their activities, in an election season donations to SACCOS is viewed as bribery because it can sway voter’s choices. As to whether voter bribery can be completely eliminated during our elections, remains the call of the citizenry.
Beyond the 2016 elections, to the by-elections that were conducted in 2017 voter bribery was one of the vices observed during the processes.
During the Kagoma by-election of Thursday May 11th 2017, in the villages of Lukolo, Buyala, Kibibi, Budondo and Buyenga, CCEDU observed that candidate agents were giving out money to voter’s, not the candidates themselves. The candidates feared being dragged into court for the act. During the by-election a secretary general of one political party donated sh3m to Buwenge Catholic Church and sh4.4m to st. Luke’s Church of Uganda. Section 68 (&) of the Parliamentary Elections Act states that a candidate shall not fundraise or give out donations during the period of campaigns. During the Kamuli by-election voter bribery was observed at Namwendwa Ward at st.Mark Polling station. One person was arrested trying to bribe voters and largely the chaos that was observed during this by-election was due to the Police looking protective of the people who were involved in voter bribery.
On 19th January 2019, CCEDU wrote an Open Letter to the president and among other issues raised monetization of elections and corruption as an impediment to holding free and fair Elections. In the Letter, CCEDU alerted the president that the practice was a grave danger as it undermined the responsibility of citizens; to freely choose their leaders.
What happens is that in the face of voter bribery, it is not necessarily competent leaders who end up in Parliament, but rather leaders who bought their way into the house and must do everything while in the house to recoup the money they spent during elections.
CCEDU suggested to the President that the only way to avert this serious problem in our electoral processes is by hinging electoral politics on a value-system that denotes competency, integrity and vision. CCEDU also implored the President as the head of Government, to regulate campaign financing by setting and implementing limits for campaign spending for elective positions.
The writer, is the Senior Communication and Advocacy Manager, FHRI/CCEDU
This article was also published by The New Vision.