By Crispin Kaheru

Elections are a democratic process for eligible citizens to choose individuals/parties to represent their interests. The choice could also be on accepting or rejecting a proposition, like in the case of referenda.

It is important to note that Uganda has generally been holding regular presidential, parliamentary and local government elections since the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution, every five years, with the exception of the LCI and LCII elections.
But the freeness of elections in Uganda has come under scrutiny. The cost of participating in elections, for example, is prohibitive. To get nominated for a parliamentary seat, one has to pay Shs3m.

Election periods are often fraught with tension, intimidation, and threats that at times breed violence. Whether elections in Uganda are fair can be answered by the number of court challenges that happen after each election. Presidential elections have been challenged in court thrice since 2001, with the 2011 one touching off a deadly wave of Walk-to-Work protests. 

In 2016 alone, more than a third of the MP results were challenged in courts of law. Since 2016, Uganda has had about 35 by-elections, and more than 25 of these are back in the courts of law for one reason or another. 

Crispy Kaheru

Research World International found that about 45 per cent of Ugandans actually do not believe that elections can lead to change of presidential power. When people begin to feel that democracy doesn’t deliver, then its legitimacy becomes difficult to defend – and that is what is happening.

Interest in elections has grown exponentially while faith in elections has declined terribly. Now you have an average of about eight persons running for presidential; six for a Parliament; and 11 for a local government seat. But you also have only about three out of every 10 Ugandans coming out and voting – especially during by-elections and local government elections.

We have elections that are akin to security operations. Each of the recent elections has seen security agencies deployed to play different roles. In some elections, security personnel campaign for candidates. In other cases, they ‘spy’ on the electoral management body, while in other cases, they wrestle with the electorate. Keeping law and order during elections is only a pleasant exception on their part. The current system is such that elections are an affair of the rich gang.

Half of the electorate (about 8 million people) cannot afford three meals a day, yet you have to pay handsomely to run for any elective position. In 2016, for instance, at Parliamentary level, about 50,000 people collected nomination forms, but only about 2,500 returned the forms with the requisite money – to run for about 450 positions.

While the world is moving to secure voters’ privacy and confidentiality, Uganda is still conducting elections by way of lining-up at the Local Council I and II levels. While there is a global shift to encourage citizen participation, open governance and public scrutiny of elections, you have situations where media and election observers are obstructed from following electoral processes.

You have voter educators being casually banned. You have a situation where the credibility of the national voters’ roll (a cornerstone of free and fair elections) continues to be a sticking issue. You have elections (LCI and LCII) conducted, but whose results remain unpublished and ungazetted as required by the law.

After elections, only a handful of MPs make an effort to visit their constituencies. MPs habitually only return to their constituencies during the last six months of their term and rarely respond to the legislative demands from their electorate. Last year, 85 per cent of Ugandans asked their MPs not to amend the Constitution (to remove presidential candidates’ age limits), but 75 per cent of the MPs voted to lift the presidential age limits. The culture of “winner-take-all”, political exclusion, impunity and social divisions continue to undercut representative democracy. To make elections work again, we have to fix these and many other issues. We have to fix the credibility of the electoral management body and of the voters’ roll. 

We have to strengthen public scrutiny of elections, streamline the role of security agencies in elections and strategically integrate relevant technologies in elections. Above all, we have to make deliberate efforts to socialise values such as integrity, trust, honesty, and confidence. We can’t trust government alone to do all this. Stakeholders must come on board throughout the electoral cycle.

Mr Kaheru is the coordinator, Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy Uganda (CCEDU)

Article Published by The Daily Monitor

Section 1: Survey Respondents PROFILE SUMMARY

A total of 92 individuals responded to the online survey for Sustaining Peace through Elections that was distributed through a variety of professional networks. Respondents information was self-identified.

Among the respondents 37% were female and 63% male, while 70% had more than 10 years professional experience.

Mr Crispy Kaheru at the launch of the survey results in Brussels, Belgium on 7th October 2018.

Respondents drew from areas of work that encompassed election management (28%), international assistance (22%), election observers (14%), conflict management (13%), political analysts (8%) as well as researchers, human rights professionals and legal analysts.

The survey participants that work in an international capacity were 64% while national based respondents accounted for 36%.

Download Full Survey Results



We live in challenging times. While the movement for legal empowerment is stronger than ever, so are the forces working to stymie access to justice across the globe. Today, we have a unique opportunity to change that, by making justice for all a central issue for world leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly. We need your help to #TipTheScales.

Ten years ago, the UN Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor released a landmark report finding that “at least four billion people are excluded from the rule of law.” The Commission, on which I was an Affiliate Expert, identified legal empowerment as an essential solution for closing the justice gap.

Over the last decade, and on every continent on the planet, community paralegals have put the power of law in people’s hands, turning legal empowerment into a global force.

In 2015, our movement succeeded in having justice included in the Sustainable Development Goals. This was a major shift in global thinking, with leaders from 193 countries committing to making “access to justice for all” a reality.

Yet, despite many promising victories, community paralegals and other grassroots justice defenders remain grossly underfunded and increasingly under attack.

People like Musa Usman Ndamba, a Global Legal Empowerment Network member and land rights activist from Cameroon. In May, Musa was sentenced to six months in prison based on claims of defamation from a wealthy businessman, which many in our community believe was retribution for Musa’s work exposing corrupt land deals. His imprisonment came after five years of judicial harassment, during which the court adjourned his hearings over 55 times.

Musa’s case is emblematic of how justice defenders are increasingly under threat of harassment, imprisonment, and violence.

Adding to these challenges is a lack of funding for the work of legal empowerment. In a recent survey of the Global Legal Empowerment Network, 67% of respondents noted that they’ll have to make cuts or will not be able to operate in the coming year due to funding concerns.

In 2015, when justice was included in the Sustainable Development Goals, not one country pledged a penny to finance access to justice. In fact, donor funding for justice has actually declined by 40% over the last four years.

As long as justice defenders are thwarted in this way, with threats increasing and funding decreasing, injustice will remain the norm for billions of people across the globe.

To overcome these odds, #JusticeForAll is a global campaign mobilizing to demand funding and protection for grassroots justice defenders. Sign the petition today and we’ll deliver our collective demands to world leaders at the UN General Assembly.

In recognition of the 10-year anniversary of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, we are also launching10 Days of Local Action. From September 25 to October 6, grassroots campaign partners are organizing actions to advance financing and protection for grassroots justice defenders. Check out this Action Pack to see how you can join these efforts and organize an event in your community.

The people that make up our movement give me hope. Ten years ago, the Commission wrote, “Democracy and legal empowerment are kindred spirits.” I believe it. Our movement believes it. It’s time we made world leaders believe it too.

With love,

Vivek, Stacey, Coco, Abby, and the entire team supporting the Global Legal Empowerment Network

The people of Kikuube have vowed not elect corrupt leaders who promote discrimination and tribal sentiments as a means of developing the district. This was during the Citizen Coalition For electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) consultative dialogue ahead of the new district elections. The consultative meeting started with a prayer from Reverend Joseph Byabakube.
CCEDU is in Kikuube to raise awareness on the need to elect leaders that will represent the needs of the people of kikuube.
“ For long Bunyoro has been divided along tribal and land matters and has had poor service delivery, “ Said Alex Byensi former councillor for Kabwooya sub-county and chairperson Elder’s Forum Kikuube District.
Byensi decried political interference in the administration of Kikube as one of the setbacks that the new leaders when elected to office must address.
Byensi also talked about the challenge of the Bafuliki whom he said had grabbed the land of the local Banyoro and this has rendered them landless in their home area. He said the new leadership should consider the issue of land as critical to the people of Kikuube.
However, Reverend John Kitalibara , Executive Director Health Communities Uganda said Bunyoro has not developed at the required pace because of the background mentality of corrupt, dishonest and unfaithful leaders. “We have the knowledge and ability to solve our problems as Bunyoro if we drop evil attitudes of not wishing other people well,” he said.

Rev. Kitalibara advised the citizens in the Baraza to embrace hardwork if Bunyoror and specifically Kikuube is to move forward.
Gerald Baleke from the Bunyoro Kindgdom – Kiziramfumbi sub-county urged the people to be careful about the leaders they will choose for the new district if they want to move Kikuube into a new development era. He said the leadership should espouse skills of tolerance , promote peace because the Banyoro have not lived in peace with each other due to intrigue.
Boniface Byaruhanga the speaker of Kizirafumbi sub-county said “ We the Banyoro hate each other and wish each other bad which is a backward thinking that has locked our potential. We need to start working together as a united force for development if we are to benefit from the new district of Kikuube.”
Teddy Barungi the Vice chairperson LCIII Kiziramfumbi said we need a Kikuube district which is together, working for development not tearing each other down with politics, land and oil issues.
The citizens and local leaders were participating in a citizen dialogue organised by CCEDU to raise consciousness and awareness on the creation of a new district and promote citizen participation in policy and leadership processes. Citizens should always be prioritised in issues of governance because it is them that elect leaders to deliver services that will develop their areas. CCEDU believes in engaging citizens in decision making and governance as one of the key ways of promoting progressive electoral democracy.

The events that marred the Arua Municipality by election before and after are argued to be most regrettable in the history of Ugandan elections.

Members of parliament Francis Zaake and Robert Kyagulanyi who are reported to be in critical health state are among the over 30 people that were savagely arrested in Arua on 13th August 2018.

Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine who is facing treason charges was on Monday granted bail by Gulu High Court that was presided over by Justice Stephen Mubiru.

Laying in excruciating pain on his sick bed at Rubaga Hospital,  Kyadondo East MP Robert KYAGULANYI sentamu narrated his ordeal by security operatives on the night of 13th in Arua municipality.

"The my nose was broken. I was given four injections ,I hope they are not toxic . However I have so much pain in the back”, Kyagulanyi said.

Showing some of his physical injuries on the legs, hands and behind the ear that appear to be drying up, Bobi wine said his tormentors beat him up with a metallic object all over his body that saw him walk on crutches.

“My back bone was affected, the doctor said my discs were dislocated but assured me that something can be done”, Kyagulanyi said.

While paying a courtesy visit to the sick legislator, Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana , the Executive Director Foundation for Human Rights Initiative condemned the acts of torture by the security operatives against the members of parliament.

“Why is it that when they are being tortured , that’s when they need human rights? , We are going to expose those who inhumanely beat up these people and they will be held accountable”, Sewanyana said.

The arrest and dentition of Kyagulanyi came with protests in the different parts of the country and abroad seeking for the freedom of the then detained legislator.

Initially, Kyagulanyi was charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition in a military court while the other three MPs were detained and charged with treason on August 16 along with 31 other Ugandans.

After being held under military detention for 10 days, the military court presided over by Lt. Gen Andrew  Gutti dropped the charges but he was immediately  re-arrested by police  and charged with treason.

In a statement released by President Museveni , he referred to media reports about Bobi Wine as “Fake News” adding that the Kyadondo East MP was in good health.

“I decided to check with Army doctors because, being a disciplined Army, UPDF doctors always take precautions in such situations. Bobi Wine had already been seen by doctors in Arua, Gulu and Kampala. He has no head or chest injuries or bone fractures, they informed me”, a section of the statement read. 

The Arua Municipality by election is the third parliamentary by-election President Museveni’s NRM party has lost and in all the three by elections(Bugiri , Jinja and Arua), it can be argued that Kyagulanyi played a significant role.

By Patience Ndinawe