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)