This Interview was published by The Independent Magazine.
Before the 2016 Uganda elections, examples of Ugandans who did not show up to update their names on the national voter’s register abound. When the Electoral Commission announced the National display exercise people took it lightly arguing that they had voted in the previous elections and so their names were on the voter’s register. When the election day finally came in February 2016, a number of them were shocked to find their names missing on the voter’s register. Their names were missing because a new voter’s register had been generated and produced by the Electoral Commission as mandated by law.
During the 2016 elections, many Ugandans also found their names missing from the National Voter’s register because they did not know that the information they had given during the registration for the National ID was the very information that the Electoral Commission was going to use to determine their polling stations. As such some people did not vote because their names on the National Voter’s register were posted to polling stations that were far from where they lived. This was a shortfall on the side of the voter because it is they that gave the information. Another issue was that some names were wrongly spelt during the national ID registration exercise, so when it came to the time for the National Voter’s update exercise, the electoral officials regarded those who wanted to change their names as cases of impersonation and deleted them from the national voter’s register. CCEDU has specific examples of where these incidents happened. This category of voters’ were also disenfranchised or denied their right to vote because of misspelt names. In other instances candidates who stood for elections in the 2016 elections used their private radio stations to discourage voter’s from participating in the national ID registration process and later the National voter’s update programme. Having listened in to the stations, some voters ignored these key Government processes and subsequently failed to participate in the 2016 electoral process.
Another issue that was encountered by voters’ in the 2016 General Elections concerning the National Voter’s Register was the allegation that the Electoral Commission used NRM cadres in some areas as EC officials to conduct the voter update and display exercise. There were claims that these NRM cadres were recommended for the EC jobs by DISO’s and GISOs and at times the RDC. However, as the EC plans activities around the Voter update exercise, CCEDU, implores the Electoral Commission to audit the allegations and if found to be true use impartial citizens as Electoral officers so that Ugandans of all political parties will look at them as objective and, therefore, feel motivated to participate in the National Voters’ update exercise. These and many others are some of the underlying issues that pushed the Citizen’s Coalition For Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) to write an open Letter to the President highlighting the need to interrogate the issues surrounding a clean voter’s register ahead of the 2021 elections. .
The writer Ms. Charity Ahimbisibwe chats with the EC Chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama at the EC offices in Kampala recently.
These and many others are some of the underlying issues that pushed the Citizen’s Coalition For Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) to write an open Letter to the President highlighting the need to interrogate the issues surrounding a clean voter’s register ahead of the 2021 elections.
In an open letter to the President CCEDU states that: many people are enthusiastic about registering for the national ID for the sake of getting one, but the letter highlights the question of deaths. Who takes stock of the deaths? This question still begs an answer from the authorities. And, therefore, CCEDU in its Open Letter to the President, states it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of ghost voters on the national voter’s register. Such uncertainty begs for thorough interrogation of the issue and locating an amicable solution in the lifetime of the Electoral Commission Roadmap.
CCEDU is committed to supporting a credible processes intended to genuinely clean the national voters register and help create an enabling environment for citizen participation in our democracy and in a quest to find amicable solutions to the enormous issues surrounding the National Voter’s register, CCEDU implores the Government and all stakeholders to remain committed to collaborate with the wanainchi, especially with regard to publicizing on-going citizen registration exercises, alongside articulating the importance of the registration of deaths and of persons who have left the country or denounced Ugandan citizenship. Citizen vigilance from village to national level will be central in framing a clean and credible national voters register ahead of the 2021 elections.
By Charity. Kalebbo. Ahimbisibwe
Senior Communications and Advocacy Manager
Citizens’ Coalition For Electoral Democracy in Uganda
Happy New Year!
Greetings from the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU).
Herewith attached, please receive CCEDU’s Open Letter to the President of the Republic of Uganda on election matters. This 2019 letter highlights three (3) key challenges that have afflicted Uganda’s elections in the recent past including: 1) Monetization of elections and corruption in electoral processes; 2) Integrity of the national voters register; and 3) Violence during elections. We have also proposed concrete remedies that we believe require urgent collective action to restore the integrity of elections in Uganda.
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. (Image Source: Softpower News)
Recent elections held in the districts of; Jinja, Arua and Bugiri registered incidents of election violence, with Arua recording the worst cases pre-election, D-day and post-election. The Arua municipality MP seat fell vacant after the gruesome murder of Hon. Ibrahim Abiriga in June 2018.
The final day of campaigning in Arua was epic. All political bigwigs on either side of political divide; NRM Party Chairman and President of Uganda, Yoweri K Museveni, opposition leading light Kiiza Besigye, and one threatening to take the shine -Kyadondo East MP Hon Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu aka Bobi Wine among others on the last stretch making a case for their preferred candidate.
The ensuing energy from rival camps, brewed provocations, and later a brawl that recorded some of the worst cases of torture and human rights abuses ever witnessed in an election exercise in the country.
The stretch marks of a highly flammable process had quite revealed early. The Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda CCEDU, an election observer body was suspended by Electoral Commission on 4th July 2018 – weeks before the Arua municipality by-election. ‘What was government hiding?” some would ask.
By the time the storm had withered , thirty-three people including Members of Parliament had been arrested by security forces. Later, these were charged with treason for allegedly attempting to harm the president of Uganda following allegations of the President’s convoy being pelted with stones by supporters of the opposition.
The suspects appeared in court in a helpless health state. Notable MPs, and other members of public were seen with grievous bodily injuries allegedly resulting out of torture while in custody of security agencies.
30-year-old Micheal Abiriga is one of the victims that escaped death narrowly after he was shot in the chest.
Andrew Natumanya, an official photographer of Kyadondo East MP Hon Robert Kyagulanyi shares his ordeal in the Arua fracas.
As he recounts, he points out a statement made by the honorable Kyagulanyi at the final rally in Arua that could have sparked off the events that followed.
In various parts of the country and abroad, streets had taken on popular anti regime response over the treatment of legislators and citizens in Arua.
The Force responded with force.
The fourth estate not spared
Yet to be confirmed reports indicate, five people lost their lives in the election-related violence around the Arua Municipality by-election held on 15th August 2018. Yasin Kawuma, the driver of Hon Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine, was the first victim, shot dead in his boss’s pickup truck two days to the election in Arua Municipality.
Tracing the past, perhaps predicts a clear view of what was to happen. On the eve of the burial of the slain Arua MP Ibrahim Abiriga, the deceased MP was highlight of a burial that defied traditional custom.
During a press conference at Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Civil society organizations condemned the torture of the Arua by Election victims.
The head of state wasn’t all too impressed. In his official social media handles, he attacked the police blaming the scuffle on weak management.
The president also warned human rights organizations and referred to them as agents of imperialists’ interests.
Civil Society Organs however disagree.
President Museveni recently in a response to the speaker of parliament, Kadaga’s letter over torture meted to MPs and civilians by the army recently; praised the army and also revealed that he ordered the UPDF in what he termed as to “protect people and property” of Arua.
Questions on how country can conduct herself better in election exercises were posed.
Early this year, CCEDU Coordinator Crispin Kaheru wrote to the president calling for electoral reforms against the backdrop of the same recommendations from Supreme court.
CCEDU Coordinator Mr. Crispy Kaheru has decried the recent increase in post election violence in Uganda.
Analysts argue that beyond the legislative tier of reforms, public civic education is equally crucial as a measure to sustain values like democracy, justice and peace in electoral practices.