I have followed the discussions around the Age-Limit ruling with keen interest. I have also read the thoughts of President Museveni on the same. Given the political context of Uganda, last week’s Constitution Court decision was easily predictable. It was not surprising that the Court delivered a verdict in favor of lifting the age limits for presidential candidates.
The mere fact that even mama mboga down the street could have predicted (with precision) the ruling, it tells a lot about the Country’s judicial system as well as the existent pulls and pressures at play. At the heart of the perceptions around the ruling is the sense that the Court could not have ruled differently given the circumstances and political context.
The age limit ruling in Mbale was more of political than legal. Politically, the majority of Parliamentarians that voted for the removal of age limits were ‘thrown under the bus’ by the benefactor and sole beneficiary of the age limit amendment law – the incumbent President. I hope this awakens the consciousness of Parliamentarians to understand for whom and with whom they legislate. If there was any invisible, it is slowly but surely becoming visible. The veil is lifting. The judgment in many respects inadvertently overturned the multi-party democratic political system and reset the country to individualistic political practices. Court’s interpretation of the law and the processes towards the amendment paid special focus on the individual of the president.
The fear to hurt the interests of President Museveni could have affected the objectivity of the Court’s conclusion in some respect. Looking at how some of the judges justified aspects such as the military attack on Parliament, the inadequate consultations (on the bill), it was clear that elements of ‘rule of law’ can now be subject to negotiation; truths can be evidenced with alternative facts; and belief systems can now be fashioned to provide legal and political legitimacy whenever need arises. The ruling has unquestionably created a tension between democracy and aspects of judicial review. Democracy should be in form and substance, and not in mere historicizing and posturing.
Citizens should be and feel represented across the entire spectrum of government. The effects of the judgment will be far-reaching. The ruling was a nod to self-styled ‘rule for life’. Although the judgment of the Constitutional Court is legal – for now, it remains largely inconsistent with legitimate expectations and may continue to face legitimacy problems. There is, unfortunately, no quick fix to the current trend of things. What we are seeing at the moment is akin to a political project that is determined to manipulate the strict etiquette of rule of law; a project that is resolved to obliterate functional institutions and their independence; and a scheme that exclusively emboldens a self-perpetuating attitude over broad citizen interests.
In the face of a tide to perpetuate individual and self, over state and nation, the urgent need for a genuine, united citizens’ ‘movement’ to change the trajectory that Uganda is taking cannot be underestimated. I am talking about a ‘movement’ that transcends politics and partisan identities; and organizes around issues and causes that affect Ugandans, Africans and humanity – broadly. I am speaking about a ‘movement’ that includes rather than excludes; a ‘movement’ that unites and not divides.
I am referring to a ‘movement’ that does not demonize its followers rather one that seeks to rally common-cause around issues of broad interest; a ‘movement’ that ‘lives’ rather than ‘leaves’ the ideals of pan-Africanism, patriotism, democracy etc. It is that ‘movement’ that will capture the imagination and hearts of the public and sail the Country through these un-usual political times. Again, we must remember that, it was Ugandans in the first place who changed the course of Uganda and not just government or institutions of the state. Only Ugandans can change Uganda – not Courts of law.
Article published by Intel Post
On Thursday, Ugandans in seven new municipalities elected six MPs in Sheema, Nebbi, Bugiri, Apac, Kotido and Ibanda, and a mayor in Njeru.
There were reports of violence and the usual allegations of rigging, bribery and voting beyond the permissible time.
Unlike in previous elections, one ingredient that Ugandans were accustomed to was missing – observation of the elections and constant reporting by the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy (CCEDU) on happenings across the country.
CCEDU, a coalition of thousands of civil society organisations and individuals spread all over the country, has since 2009 built capacity to observe and report on elections, and has in a number of cases helped to blow the whistle on misdeeds during elections.
Over the years, areas of conflict built up between CCEDU and the Electoral Commission, with some officials of the Electoral Commission accusing CCEDU of being partisan in the way it observes elections.
CCEDU insists that it is objective in its election observation and voter education practices, and cites a number of examples of when it has productively fed into the positive conduct of elections, including when they mobilised Ugandans to register for the 2016 elections.
CCEDU has also pointed out that as the Electoral Commission accuses it of being partisan, an accusation it denies, it is not lost on many that the Electoral Commission has itself been accused by a number of players, chiefly the Opposition parties, of being partisan, in favour of the ruling party.
The fallout climaxed with the suspension of CCEDU’s license to conduct voter education and observe elections, which happened in the lead up to the village elections that took place earlier this month.
As a result, the village chairpersons and women leaders elections, coupled with the elections in the municipalities that happened on Thursday, have taken place without any official observer.
It is important to note that Uganda is party to a number of regional and international arrangements that recognise observing elections as an important ingredient of electoral democracy. It is an important way to ensure the movement towards free and fair elections. The Electoral Commission cannot be referee and observer at the same time.
Even during national elections when foreign observers come into the country, they come too late and remain thinly spread on the ground, unable to tell the real picture.
This is why the Electoral Commission and CCEDU should speedily resolve this impasse and reinstate citizen observation of elections as soon as practicable.
Article Published by The Daily Monitor.
CCEDU is calling for an urgent meeting with it's members and partners to discuss the Electoral Commission's suspension of CCEDU accreditation to participate in Election related activities . The meeting will take place on th 12July 2018 at at the CCEDU offices in Nsambya, Kampala. Kindly join in.
Youth in West Nile have demonstrated over the manner in which Youth Members of Parliament are elected. The angry youth held placards and marched on the streets chanting ‘youth voices matter’, electoral colleges must go’. They argued that Electoral College system of voting discriminate against a large percentage of the youth. Most of them are hindered from choosing candidates of their choice.
“We are all above 18 years; we have a right to choose our leaders,” Rwothomio Saviour , Secretary for Finance, Nebbi District Youth Council said.
“Electoral Colleges must go, our voices must be heard,” Dima Godfrey Oboi District youth Chairperson Adjumani.
“All youth must vote, electoral colleges must go,” the youth chanted.
“The voting system is tedious and expensive as it requires transportation of voters/delegates from one place to another and also discriminates the potentially good youth leaders with good ideology and manifesto from taking up leadership”, said Bakole Geoffrey, District Youth Chairperson Arua.
Electoral College system of voting is where a few people / youth or voters who are delegates vote on behalf of the majority voters/youth.
In Youth MP’s elections and youth council elections, nine people are voted at the villages who vote for the nine committee members at the parish level; who thereafter vote nine committee members at the sub county that conclusively vote for nine district youth council committee members; who in addition to the 3 sub county committee members (sub county youth chairperson, secretary for finance and secretary for female affairs) form the 336 youth of the National Youth Delegates Conference that votes for the youth MPs and Nine National Youth Council Committee members.
“The youth MP’s have not come out to front the Youth Agenda as the Youth do not feel their relevance and impact. They cover over 30 to 40 districts each which is a challenge and makes them ineffective,” Lydiah Namayengo, Project Manager, Voice CCEDU.
Youth make up 78% of Uganda’s population and yet they are represented by only 5 youth MP’s representing Western, central, Eastern, Northern and Buganda region according to the 1993 National Youth Act.
However the youth are objected to this system which violates their rights as mandated by Chapter 1 article 1 clause (4) and Chapter 5 article 59 (1) in the constitution of Uganda.
The group which feels marginalized, now want the Regional youth MP’s and other Interest Group MP’s(worker’s, Persons with Disabilities, army and women) abolished and instead introduce proportional representation where there is a district youth MP, Woman MP and PWD from within the existing constituencies of every district.
“One regional youth MP cannot address issues of youth in a whole region as it entails very many districts. For instance I have never seen my youth MP ever since campaigns. I do not know how he looks like or how tall he is”, said Amoro Janet, secretary female affairs Arua district Youth council.
“The Youth MP’s are not aware about what affects the youth on the ground. They should be scrapped off because they are not representing us in parliament. They have introduced the social media tax and it is what unites , employs some of us but no youth MP is coming out to demand for the tax to be abolished”, Rwothomio Saviour , Secretary for Finance , Nebbi District Youth Council.
The youth urge government to empower youth councils by providing salaries and allowances to them so as to effectively address the issues that affect the youth.
“Youth must demand for inclusion and full participation in elections , policy making , planning , budgeting and decision making because it is their right granted by the Constitution of Uganda”, Lydiah Namayengo , Project Manager Voice, CCEDU.
Onduma Sulaiman, the speaker LC5 Arua District said “the youth need our support. If you the youth don’t speak up for yourselves, who will speak for you? Don’t fear, raise your voices and government will respond”.
The youth from Adjumani, Moyo , Yumbe , Nebbi , Arua , Koboko , Maracha and Zombo districts were converging at Arua Christus Centre for the ‘My Voice’ regional platform under My Voice campaign that is aimed at amplifying Youth Voices to ensure more Youth Participation in Elections and Democracy in Uganda , a program run by CCEDU in partnership with OXFAM.
This is to clarify that CCEDU has not and is not recruiting lawyers for temporary or long-term employment, as has been alleged by some sections of the public. As common practice, CCEDU puts together an internal legal response system for its election observers during elections of a national nature. In the same way, as we prepare to observe the upcoming local government elections in July 2018, CCEDU is putting together a voluntary legal response team from (strictly) within its membership to respond to any issues affecting CCEDU observers that may arise during this electoral period.