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
Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, has been appointed the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order by the UN Human Rights Council. The mandate will require Dr Sewanyana to examine the states on their democratic and development practices and submit a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva and the UN General assembly in New York on an annual basis. The examination will detail the performances of states and make recommendations on the necessary improvements.
Dr Livingstone Sewanyna with Dr Paul Kawanga Semwogerere at the 20th Graduation ceremony of Nkozi University on 16th March 2018
A seasoned human rights advocate, Dr. Sewanyana has spent 27 years fighting for the rights of others. It is no surprise, that last year he scooped the national and Regional awards for “Welfare and Civil Society category ” , he later won the continental award, organized by CEO Global TITANS on 22nd September 2017 at Kampala Serena Hotel and South Africa respectively. TITANS are people who build the nation and are recognized for their contribution to nation building. Titans are meant to inspire young people to participate in meaningful ventures that build their nations.
“Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana has speared headed a number of interventions locally and at regional level such as the campaign against the abolition against the death penalty in Uganda and the East African region. He has been at the centre of promoting electoral democracy in Uganda and in 2016 he was the chairperson of the biggest domestic election observers’ network CEON-U, that brought together 23 civil society organizations,” said Memory Bandera Director Programmes and Administrator, Defend Defenders.
For Immediate Release – 15th March 2018
Today, March 15, 2018 Jinja East went to the polls to elect a Member of Parliament. The election followed a nullification of Nathan Igeme Nabeta’s (NRM) election by the court of Appeal. The three justices led by retired deputy chief justice Steven Kavuma ruled that the results of one of the polling stations were inflated and it affected the general results.
To track the day’s activities, CCEDU deployed a team of 39 stationery observers and seven mobile observers who sampled all the 47 polling stations in Jinja East.
Preliminary findings of the observation team were:-
Opening of polling stations and polling: The polls registered a slow start – especially after the heavy morning downpour disrupted the commencement of polling. Several voting places around Jinja metropolitan area including the four (4) polling stations at Main Street Primary School commenced voting after 8:00am. This was partly due to the lack of the five (5) voters required before commencement of voting – due to disruptions caused by the rain. Voters braved the heavy rains that characterized most of the parts in Jinja Municipality East Constituency to go and vote at their respective polling stations. Queues at polling stations increased in length in the afternoon even though the rains continued. Under the circumstances, there was a general enthusiasm around the polling day as reflected by the long queues of especially young men and women that turned out to vote.
Deployment of Security: This could have been the most policed by-election in Uganda’s recent history, with a single polling station being manned by more than one polling constable. Most urban polling stations had as many as 30 security persons supervising a polling station – a number that surpasses what has been seen before in hotly contested elections such as, the Kyadondo East Constituency by-election conducted in 2017. Volatile Jinja town areas attracted much higher deployment. In some cases, security deployment was of an intrusive nature and catalyzed rowdiness among locals.
In law and in principle, the EC is supposed to manage all aspects of the election including, security. Perceptions around security agencies occasionally interfering with the electoral environment outside the purview of the EC still exist. EC needs to counter both the perceptions and realities of being subordinate to security agencies on matters electoral security.
Heavy Police deployment was sighted in Jinja East by-election.
Incidents: The Jinja metropolitan area, specifically Main Street was the theater of chaotic scenes resulting from occasional running battles between the security personnel and locals. At for instance, Main Street Primary School, police conducted various arrests on account of NRM party supporters allegedly campaigning around the polling center. A phantom polling station was in the earlier part of the day erected at the Main Street Primary School bringing the total number of polling stations to five (5) instead of four (4). Vigilante citizens exposed this anomaly and the 5th polling station was immediately removed. Voters demonstrated exceptional vigilance in the by-election, to the extent that most of those who turned up to vote at different polling stations remained around, until the time of counting the votes – after 4:00pm.
Allegations of vote rigging, ballot stuffing and voter bribery remained widely spread. At some point, FDC President, Patrick Oboi Amuriat who was in the Constituency displayed a ballot paper that was pre-ticked in favour of NRM’s Nathan Igeme Nabeta. The EC however dismissed the complaints around leaked and pre-ticked ballot papers noting that the serial numbers on the allegedly pre-ticked ballots were different from those that EC held in their custody.
Candidate Agents: Party and candidate agents from both the ruling NRM and the opposition demonstrated exceptional watchfulness of the polling process. Opposition MPs and senior figures watched the voting process at all the 47 polling stations in Jinja Municipality East Constituency. Senior figures from the NRM party likewise guarded their candidate’s vote in the Constituency.
Management of Polling Day: The EC deployed its staff to work as senior polling officials at the 47 polling stations in the Constituency. This may have accounted for the fair level of efficiency witnessed during the polling and counting process. Counting of votes is still on going at most polling stations.
Whereas the previous practice and norm has been that polling stations are located in open air spaces for purposes of guaranteeing transparency, most polling stations in Jinja Municipality East by-election had to be moved from open-air spaces to semi-covered facilities to protect polling materials from getting destroyed by the rain. In future, the EC will have to re-think the practice of locating polling stations in open-air spaces without compromising the principle of transparency of an election
Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU)
Plot 1111 Lulume Road Nsambya
P.O. Box 11027 Kampala, Uganda
Tel: +256 794 444 410
Mob: +256 794 444 401
Web site: http://www.ccedu.org.ug
19th February 2018
We write this letter with a profound appreciation that this year government plans to conduct elections in the six newly created districts of: Nabilatuk, Bugweri, Kwani, Kapelebyong, Kasanda, and Kikuube; elections will also be conducted to fill vacancies in about 264 of the 1,403 sub counties in Uganda. Other elections envisaged include: Parliamentary and Local Government by-elections, as well as possible Local Council I and II elections alongside the possibility of a National referendum. In order to deliver a cost-effective and democratic electoral process that will enlist the confidence of the wananchi to participate unimpeded in the different electoral processes, electoral reforms are a must. Your Excellency, we want to believe that it is because you clearly understand the importance of progressive political reforms that you rightly campaigned on the platform of instituting a constitutional review process.
A man casts his vote in the recent Ruhaama By-election.
Under chapter II of your 2016 – 2021 manifesto, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) commits to uphold the principle of democracy where citizens directly participate in regular, free and fair elections. Correspondingly, NRM has situated itself as the trustee and principal guarantor of vision 2040 in which the need for democracy is recognized as the anchor to transform Uganda. Vision 2040 states that, government will inter alia, enhance the legal and regulatory framework covering the electoral process. In line with these commitments, the second National Development Plan (NDP II) recognises that without free and fair political and electoral processes, key development objectives cannot be achieved. To this end, the NDP II proposes to “enact laws to strengthen credibility of electoral processes in Uganda and citizen participation in the electoral process”.
Your Excellency, we recognise that following the enactment of the 1995 Constitution, Uganda has held regular elections during the set constitutional time frames – every five years. Yet, since 2001, general elections in Uganda have ended in controversy. The 2001, 2006 and 2016 presidential elections culminated in court disputes while in 2011, elections ended in violent public demonstrations. Despite your policy direction, concerns about your government’s commitment towards a transparent and accountable electoral framework persist. Since 2001, election observers, political organisations, civil society organisations and private individuals have proposed electoral and constitutional reforms that would guarantee credible, free and fairer elections in Uganda.
On January 30, 2018, the Kenyan government shut down four news channels; Citizen TV, Inooro TV, NTV and KTN for announcing plans to air the swearing-in of opposition leader Raila Odinga as president.
Kenyans took to the streets of Nairobi and through various social platforms, protested the closure. The protest was joined by lawyers, who, on February 1, went to court and ordered a 14-day suspension of the shutdown to allow for a legal challenge.
These protests and condemnations by citizens who know and value the role of the media, is a lesson Ugandans should pick.
Unfortunately, in Uganda, it has become common for government to shut down media houses as and when it pleases. During the 2016 elections, social media was shut down on Election Day in February and as Yoweri Museveni swore-in as president on 12th May.
Most recently, since September 2017 to date, media houses have been on the receiving end of crackdown. The Red Pepper (and by extension its sister publications), was in November shut down following the publication of a story that government says was in breach of national security, among other charges. The paper only resumed operations on 29 January 2018 after meeting President Museveni and getting a ‘presidential pardon’.
Before that, several upcountry radio stations were shut down for airing content relating to the presidential age limit removal contained in Article 102(b) of the Constitution. Uganda Communications Commission, in all counts stated that the stations were in breach of minimum broadcasting standards. Relatedly, editors of Daily Monitor and Red Pepper were summoned by police in relation to publishing stories about the presidential age limit debate, while a ban was slapped on live media coverage of the same.
Through all these crackdown against the media, Ugandans remain conspicuously silent, except for a few voices on social media and by civil society organisations. These voices eventually died down.
In my view, the problem of intimidation of journalists and the crackdown against the media can be solved if the Ugandan public learned from their Kenyan counterparts. Every-time a media house is shut down, Ugandans should protest using social media and various legal means. If the local press cannot carry the story of the shutdown, the international media will pick it up and keep it running. The idea is not to relent every time intimidation rears its ugly head.
Secondly, media houses should at all times publish fact-based and objective stories. These stories will speak for themselves in courts of law and in the eyes of the public. While some journalists lack professionalism, this should be addressed so that the entire media fraternity is not exposed to high-handedness by the state and individuals because of lapses by a few rotten eggs.
By Charity Ahimbisibwe
Charity is the Communication and Advocacy Manager at FHRI/CCEDU