It is an emotional moment. Firstly, because of the honour and reverence of being a nominee of the European Union Human Rights Defenders Award 2017. I know there are many people of character, dignity, intelligence, intellect, activism, diplomacy, patriotism, service, energy, name it – that would naturally deserve this kind of honour – than Me.
In fact, I know multitudes of Ugandan and foreign people who, because of their unwavering commitment to fight for rights in this – our dear nation, are more worthy to have received this nomination; not even just once, but every day of their lives – than Me. In any case, I have accepted the nomination in a “representative capacity”. Representing Ugandans here, and away; whose works, character and love for their country drives them to do good – and do it consistently with optimism – amidst challenging environments – and with the conviction that their efforts are NOT in vain.
This is not just an honour to me, an individual; it is recognition of the aggregate efforts of the citizens of Uganda – who wake up daily with intent and hope to build and NOT to destroy – whether in air-conditioned offices or in Shambas in the countryside. It is recognition of all men and women who overwhelmingly braved the sun in the South and the afternoon rains in the North – to make the long winding queues at polling stations with the hope of voting – in the February 2016 general elections.
It is recognition of those endangered species of men and women of character who still flash the banner of Uganda’s founding ideals and values – and those doing the painstaking job to take our nation back on to the path of obuntu bulamu – a strong value system.
It is recognition to all those – children, youth, women, men, PWDs, those in leadership positions or not, who rise to the occasion, diligently doing anything and everything small or big to eliminate today’s lingering evils: poverty, hunger, anger, corruption, impunity, conflict, crime, discrimination, terror under very difficult circumstances.
It is recognition to all those that endure to carry the conviction that indeed Uganda can be better – better than it was yesterday, better than it is today. It is an honor to the men and women emboldened by history, the search for justice and society of equal opportunities who relentlessly go out every morning to expand and broaden the benefits of democracy, rule of law and better governance for Uganda and the rest of the world.
It is an ovation to the leaders and servants who have fearlessly resisted the temptation of sliding into bitterness, anger, and hatred but instead they have boldly embraced peace, dialogue and respect for one another. This nomination is not for me as a person. It is a promise of a better Uganda.
A better country guided by the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. A better country guided by ethical values and standards NOT personal feelings; a better nation that takes its past mistakes and successes seriously – and learns from them to inspire best for today and tomorrow’s generations.
My gratitude goes out to the European Union and partners who unremittingly walk with us on this vast and sometimes dangerous journey. Our heartfelt gratitude to all men and women that stand with us on this vocation. I acknowledge the outstanding works of all the previous nominees of this award since its establishment.
Outgoing Gambia President Yahya Jammeh inspects guard of honour. Image; Okayafrica.com
By Faridah Lule.
On Thursday 1st December 2016, the people of the smallest country in West Africa went out to cast their vote; little did they envision the power of their vote in attaining what President Obama once phrased as “Yes we can.” President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year reign must have arrived with shockwaves to a man who once said he would rule for “one billion years if Allah willed it”.
Even most shocking was witnessing an African Incumbent concede defeat. Now we know, there is no doubt about the power of the Vote, especially after we’ve organized early and appropriate. Let’s briefly revisit how it worked in Gambia – where, quite notably, an Electoral Commission was also appointed up by the long-serving Incumbent.
The opposition fronted one candidate to lead an opposition coalition of seven parties, the largest alliance of its kind since independence; they nominated 51-year-old Adama Barrow who has never held any public office in his life. He won the presidential elections by 263,515 votes representing 45.5% against the incumbent who lost by 36.7%, and as we already know, unseating an African Incumbent is not the usual way politics goes in this part of the world, yet it’s now getting popular in West Africa, with Nigeria having taken lead.
Adama worked as a security guard at an Agos catalogue store, he returned to Gambia to start up his own estate company, which he’s been running until Thursday when he started. Smelling the highest office in the tiny West African nation. Gambia, which has not had a smooth transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1965 now has a coalition that will govern for three years with Barrow, after which elections will be held and he will step down in line with a memorandum signed by all parties.
“My party will continue but I’m not part of the process,” Barrow pledged to media Saturday when asked about the three-year commitment. “I’m a businessman; I’ll continue my business,” Wouldn’t we all appreciate if the opposition in Uganda became similarly serious and organized early too, in a bid to unseat our own incumbent? Rather than wait for 2021 to have Ugandans believe that the problem is President Museveni “who is not letting the opposition have free and fair elections.”
Grass root work and strategizing for 2021 should start now, classifying the parties that wish to join the coalition and drafting a proper agenda for the country should get on our opposition agenda fast. And guess this time around, everybody would find it worthy to rally around the opposition cause. Now that the President has already nominated candidates to head the commission, the campaign for an independent commission should no longer be priority, instead, opposition should evaluate themselves and develop strategies on how to work with the newly appointed Electoral commission towards public accountability.
The Typical opposition public stunts we witness almost weekly are hardly going to elicit sympathy from Ugandans, It’s high time our people witnessed a systematic alternative government on display. Need we repeat that dear Ugandan opposition? Weekly street run-ins with Police say little or nothing about the leadership this country deeply craves for.
Any serious opposition should have a group of technical persons who can respond, present reactive alternatives to policies and laws presented by government. For all these years for example, we have had the Ugandan opposition unable to front candidates in more than 20 constituencies, relentlessly leaving the ruling party unopposed In the new districts of Kagadi, Kibaale, Rubanda, Omoro and Kakumiro for example, NRM literally swept everything.
Now with examples of Nigeria and Gambia, Ugandan opposition are left with no excuse rather than exhibit their readiness to deliver change to a country that has long relied on a polarized opposition to deliver real change. Constitutionally speaking, the President will not be legible to stand again, which means NRM will have to present a new candidate, and so, the opposition better prepare an equal match.
I am now beginning to personally refrain from all discourse focusing on President Museveni, and I suggest that all political discussion today endeavor to refer to him in the past. As we all, alongside opposition, watch Gambia smile, let’s begin evaluating a suitable joint presidential candidate for 2021. Shall we, dear Ugandan opposition?
The writer is a Project Associate at Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy.
By Faridah Lule and Moses Ngorok.
Eng. Dr. Badru Kiggundu’s tenure as EC chairperson comes to an end in November 2016.
The tenure of the other Electoral Commissioners (with the exception of Commissioner Justine Mugabi, who’s already been re-appointed by President Museveni) will also come to an end.
Constitutionally, Electoral Commissioners in Uganda can serve a maximum of two seven-year terms in office, after which new commissioners are appointed by the President: a task President Museveni is expected to undertake in no more than a month.
The tale of Eng. Dr. Badru Kiggundu and his team’s tenure with the EC is mixed with successes and challenges—but its challenges outweigh the successes, thereby justifying the purpose of writing this, which is to provide a forecast of the job that lies ahead for those that, at the end of November, will take on the mantle from the outgoing Commission.
It’s pertinent that these new group of Commissioners serve the country best having been forewarned of the challenges they are likely to face when they assume their new jobs.
Inevitably, we must reflect on the work done by Eng. Dr. Badru Kiggundu, and his team that has managed and administered elections in Uganda for the last 14 years.
Taking positives first, there have been several developments seen since Eng. Dr. Badru Kiggundu and his team were appointed:
Increased levels of transparency by the EC, and willingness to collaborate with other stakeholders in the Electoral process exemplified in actions such the presence of an updated website which keeps stakeholders in the electoral process informed about the EC’s work.
The development and disbursement of a strategic plan for the 2016 general elections, which allowed for improved preparation by the EC in the 2016 general elections.
The adoption and use of new technologies such as the Biometric Voter Verification system which has simplified voter registration, thus enhancing greater and better partnership with other stakeholders in providing voter education—for instance, 66 organisations were accredited to conduct voter education during Uganda’s 2016 general elections.
Nonetheless, it’s pertinent to mention that the EC still faces great challenges administering elections.
The four general elections (2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016) that Eng. Badru Kiggundu and his team have managed have fallen short of international standards for elections according to international and domestic observers.
Key areas cited for improvement by EC include:
Managing election logistics better to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised. For instance, in the 2016 general elections, voting materials got to polling stations around Kampala and Wakiso at 2pm rather than the stipulated 7am.
Other areas of improvement required of the EC as listed in election observation reports include the need to do better with voter education. It has been noted by election observers especially during the 2016 general elections, that there is a need for voters to be educated about basic voting procedure.
A consequence of a lack of proper voter education as cited by election observers during Uganda’s 2016 general elections was a wasteful use of ballot papers by voters who poorly marked ballots leading to a large number of collected spoilt ballots.
The most significant challenge though faced by the current EC is the criticism of its alleged lack of independence portrayed in the general lack of public mistrust especially after February 2016.
These challenges have continued to paint the current EC, and consequently Eng. Dr. Badru Kiggundu, and his team in bad light.
Our hope is that, fore-warned, the incoming EC will be in better position to resolve the afore-mentioned challenges it is set to inherit from the outgoing EC —What is likely going to be, in our view, a mammoth task!
Moses and Faridah are project staff at Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy Uganda. (CCEDU)
Previous Electoral Commission members at Namboole National tally centre. (Observer Newspaper Photo)
By Faridah Lule.
Commenting on the recent EC appointment, Presidential press secretary, Don Wanyama, remarked, “The President is implementing some of these proposals before they are even actualized into law. He was actually under no obligation to name someone at the level of a judge but there he is; implementing their resolutions.”
Mr. Wanyama it looks like the president is doing us a favour, don’t forget Article one anytime you want to defend the actions of the president. Uganda should be Consistent with the Durban Declaration Principle that obliges member states to establish impartial, all-inclusive, competent and accountable national electoral bodies, and the President should be aware of the current controversy surrounding the appointment of the current Electoral Commission.
Changes orchestrated by the multi-party dispensation as well as the track record of the institution of the EC make the review of the body inevitable.
In order to ensure the independence of the Electoral Commission and to keep it insulated from external pulls and pressures the Commissioners must be hired through a transparent, public appointment process that enlists wider stakeholder consultation and a more inclusive approval mechanism that instills public confidence in the capacity of the commissioners, and their ability to operate autonomously and professionally.
This kind of process should be able to fulfil principles of a merit-based selection dependent on a competitive application process. The current Ugandan experience according to the Constitution, Article 60 (1), is that, all seven (6) Commissioners are appointed by the President with the approval of Parliament.
This appointment process does not safeguard the commissioners from any potential influence from the incumbent authorities, who many times have a direct interest in the result of an election.
It is critical that laws relating to the appointment of commissioners inherently carry safety valves against any possible manipulation of the Commission by a single appointing authority.
In Kenya for instance, the recruitment process is handled by a specialised Selection Panel.
The Panel is formed by a total of seven representatives drawn from the offices of the President, Prime Minister, Judicial Service Commission, the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board and the Association of Professional Services of East Africa. Nominees to this panel are vetted by the National Assembly before they take on their responsibilities.
Once the National Assembly has approved the nominees, they will then constitute themselves into a Selection Panel which will from then, the appointment process, responsibilities and duties of the Selection Panel that interviews the IEBC Commissioners is well articulated in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act No. 9 of 2011.
In accordance with the law, the Selection Panel invites applications from qualified candidates from the public from which it shortlists individuals to be interviewed. Shortlisted individuals undergo a public interview process from which three individuals are selected for the position of chairperson, and thirteen for the Commissioners’ positions.
The names of selected candidates are then forwarded to the President. The President then chooses one name out of the three candidates nominated for the position of Chairperson and eight names from the pool of thirteen names proposed for commissioner appointment.
The President forwards the nine names to Parliament for vetting and approval or disapproval. But as an interested stakeholder in elections, it may not even be necessary to refer the names of the successful candidates to the President; the Select Committee can resolve the process and forward the final exact names of successful candidates to Parliament for vetting and approval or disapproval.
Such a recruitment procedure is not only participatory but also dispels any would be ‘claims of bias', and favouritism by the appointing authority’.
Beyond identifying a professional team, this process strengthens the credibility and legitimacy of the Commissioners and portends well with Public‘s trust in the institution of the EMB, Uganda must, therefore, review the currently set apprehensively reviewed if its image and credibility are to be redeemed. CCEDU proposes a more participatory and transparent process of appointment of the members no matter the government’s actions the campaign will still go on; together we will make a difference.
The writer is the Project Associate - Election processes, at Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy Uganda. (CCEDU)
By Faridah Lule
Elections are a process, not an event, every election comprises numerous elements and involves multiple institutions and actors throughout pre-election, Election Day and post-election periods, all of which affect the transparency, inclusiveness, accountability and competitiveness of the election this assertion is true to my understanding.
Before we went in for the 2016 general elections, many actors had raised concerns and made proposals for reforms but majority of the substantive reforms were not considered by Parliament, at that point, government promised to constitute a constitutional review commission to handle the reforms reason there was no time to debate and consider the many proposals. Instead, the government managed to sneak in a few reforms that were hurriedly passed and became effective; among these were, time for opening, closure and nomination fees.
The Government should know it’s not a request rather an obligation to the citizens and also uphold the rule of law. The Supreme Court in its ruling ordered the Attorney General to handle the reforms and gave it a timeline.
As interested actors, we have kept our hopes high and our prayer is that on the agenda of government business top priority will be to constitute a constitution review commission to start work before 2021. The minister of constitution affairs, Hon Otafiire Kahinda promised to have this commission constituted as soon as possible and that plans were underway.
I recall at one point, His Excellency President Museveni said there is need to have the electoral reforms when he was caught up in a scenario. “There is a need to review electoral laws because how do you bar me from contributing towards a development project? How do I go to church service and I don’t give God or give a gift? What kind of laws are these? That is going beyond…” just like the president Ugandans too think there is need for reforms and this was raised in the Citizen’s Compact for free and fair elections.
Well for the good of our country I request that the minister does not wait for the return of Christ to begin on the process. We as Ugandans have patiently waited for the reforms and for us; it’s the only way to have a level playing field if the electoral reforms are considered as suggested by different actors.
We don’t have to use nonviolent means to express what we feel is the right thing to do, we will wait impatiently for the minister in charge to spearhead the process and not to wait for a month or weeks to election and front their own proposed reforms but rather to follow the democratic path which is inclusive of all us.
We need to restore the integrity of the election process first by controlling and ending the vice that has defined Uganda’s politics which has turned out to be a business venture. Once the commission announces that there will be an election the candidates begin thinking of avenues to get money and the voters also get excited ready to receive their share. Commercialization of politics does not only kill the integrity of the elections but also undermines the quality of leadership presented.
I was not shocked when ACFM presented the results from their survey that indicated one Member of Parliament having spent a billion shilling in the last general elections. For the voters it has now come to my vote my money, and this was exhibited by voters in Rubanda who were sited around the polling station and vowed not to vote until they get money and whoever comes first will receive the vote.
Another survey was carried out by The Aga khan University, and it revealed that 74% of the youth are vulnerable to electoral bribery, with 39%saying they would only vote for a candidate who bribed them. We need to address the issue of electoral reforms to tame this vice and also level the playing field for all players.
Consistently it has been the practice of government to bring reforms last minute. That is the very reason why the chairperson Electoral commission stressed the need to have laws passed on time he urged parliament to speed up the amendment as well as the enactment of electoral laws and regulations and that this would go a long way in ensuring the 2016 general elections are freer and fairest than 2011 elections, he warned not let the amendments to electoral laws wait until it is too late. If we do not do it, we will have ourselves to blame.
The writer is the project Associate at Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU)