By Eddie Semakula
We can confidently say it again, the Electoral Commission intolerably failed to live up to national expectations in the February 2016 election, we can recall that even one of the polling stations in their Namuwongo backyard never received voting materials in time. And we are not yet talking the mushrooming by-elections yet. Wakiso and Kampala districts registered their own woes on that dark February day. to mention that the chairperson, Badru Kiggundu, later promised to hand over the reins at the highest electoral management body, a move we are still waiting to see happen.But what if we revisited the root of this all?
What if, once again, we question the legality of the EC appointment process? What if we started now? And pondered matters related to the electoral commission rather than waiting for tallying centre announcements and delayed voting materials?
As we head towards the next election, here are a couple of critical things honorable Ugandans must speak to before we end up in a bad marriage, democratically. Appointment of Commissioners; this September, we are going to see the appointment of new commissioners, our hope is that this process will have a more inclusive mechanism that instills public confidence in their ability to operate autonomously and professionally.
Article 60(1) of the Ugandan Constitution still maintains that all seven commissioners are appointed by the President with the approval of Parliament, this appointment process does not safeguard them from the influence of the incumbent. With the seemingly arriving constitutional review process, will our legislators push for appointment laws that are insulated from manipulation? Kenya has an appointment panel we can emulate, approved by Parliament; the panel directly invites qualified candidates from the public. Is that something we can mimic?Composition of the Electoral Commission; Emerging Democracies like Uganda need an electoral management body quarantined from political party influence, the current management body seems to have “cut their teeth” under the National Resistance Movement, a fact that leaves Ugandans skeptical about it’s capacity to “bite the finger that feeds”.
Zimbabwe for example (all other factors constant) has a seven-member electoral Commission in which five females represent, the composition of our electoral body must reflect the diversity, gender inclusiveness, and the culture of the peoples of Uganda. Shall we speak to this matter dear Ugandans? Commissions with such representation are far more socially acceptable than commissions that disregard these.There you go, Ugandans have a few things to work upon before the next election, our members of Parliament, our opinion leaders, our civil society organisations, plus our media, all have a responsibility on their hands, to fuel a critical mass that will keep the establishment in check concerning these matters, way earlier.
If Democracy means anything to Ugandans and we still don’t speak now, may we never blame anybody for the bad union that eventually ensues, come 2021. May we speak now or forever hold our peace.
The writer is Project Associate – New Media, at Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy Uganda (CCEDU)