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Wednesday, 17 August 2016 06:47

Ugandans, speak now, or forever hold your peace.

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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)

By Septemba Olga

Our Republic is described as a Democracy every so and then, but to what extent does this Democracy exist?

Rampant human rights abuses, some clearly seen, others hidden between paper work and fine print. Like the NGO bill, which like Nicholas Opiyo, executive director of Chapter Four Uganda puts it, “If passed in its current form, it will obstruct the ability of all Ugandans to work collectively through local and international organizations on any research or advocacy that may be deemed critical of the government,” (Daily Monitor, April 21, 2015.)

This is the kind that is hiding grievances that will befall any who don’t abide by it, those who agree to it, and those who the organizations set out to help.


Our government tries to be democratic and protect our rights, but it’s clear like former Nigerian president Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu, has noted, “it swings between dictatorship and authoritarianism and yet retains certain Democratic traits.”’


This balancing of intolerant dictatorship with democracy has come at a huge cost of our rights as Ugandans. Many government misdemeanors, like the recent social media blackout, have gone unchecked. Our rights to information on civil and political proceedings have been taken away.

This has worsened, when almost anyone dissenting the establishment has been arrested or their property seized, many have mysteriously disappeared and others considered dead (only to resurface later, sometimes).

Police intimidation and harassment plus arrest of opposition leaders have further blurred the line between democracy and dictatorship, which, with the increased militarization of the police and on politics, is reason enough to worry about the state of this nation.

A writer in the weekly observer newspaper J.S.Ssentongo, puts it succinctly, “it is often the case that in trying to occupy positions of privilege in society, people justify or rationalize their claims. “

This was seen when the public Order Management Bill was brought forward, with the façade that it was for national security, yet it hindered opposition, activity, pushing back the freedom of speech, and expression.

The (Belated) Electoral Commission, which is supposed to ethically stand-alone and do its job, has lost some, if not, most of its credibility, all while ridden with suspicion and (accused) partisanship.

It is neither independent nor transparent, which makes it privy to being bent by someone else’s will and making decisions not in favour of the people.

This coupled with the abuse of article 67(3) of the constitution, which states that, “presidential candidates must be given equal time and space on state owned media to present their program to the people,” clearly shows how much our ‘democratic’ state has pushed aside and decided which rights are fundamental and which ones are not.

The state today is like what my father at home likes to remind me; “We don’t have democracy here, as long as you live under my roof, everything shall be as I say. ” Our country is a hybrid of the President, the military and ruling party, neither can be mentioned independently.

And if this narrative continues, who will deny that fundamental human rights are in crisis?


The writer is a second year student of Ethics and Human rights, Makerere University, and currently an intern at Citizens' Coalition for electoral Democracy Uganda (CCEDU)

Thursday, 25 February 2016 09:12

UGANDA’S HOPE FOR FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS DASHED

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The Citizens Election Observers Network – Uganda (CEON-U) is a consortium of 18 (eighteen) national and 23 sub national civil society organisations that aims to enhance the integrity of the election process by providing evidence-based, impartial assessments, deterring and exposing irregularities, and increasing citizen participation in Uganda’s electoral process.

This statement draws on CEON-U’s tabulation process observation, which involved deploying observers to all 112 district tally centres and four at the National Tally Centre. It also reflects on CEON-U’s six-month, nationwide observation of the pre-electoral process. CEON-U deployed 223 long term observers (LTOs) in all 112 districts of Uganda. To complement LTO findings, several organizations under CEON-U also observed specific aspects of the election including media, campaign financing, security and gender and women’s participation. CEON-U deployed more than 1250 observers for Election Day to all 290 constituencies across all 112 districts. This included conducting a sample-based observation (SBO), which involved deploying 700 sample-based observers to a random, representative sample of polling stations.

While Election Day processes and tabulation at the district level were conducted relatively well, with the exception of certain locations, the credibility of the overall election process was undermined by fundamental and structural flaws. The context in which Uganda holds its elections cannot allow for free, fair and credible elections.

CONTEXT
Uganda’s legal framework limits the foundation for conducting credible elections. These limitations prompted civil society to produce the Uganda Citizens’ Compact on Free and Fair Elections, which includes recommendations for legal reform: overhauling the Electoral Commission to ensure independence and impartiality; reforming the demarcation of electoral boundaries; ensuring recruitment of polling officials is done in a transparently, competitively and based on merit; and the establishment of an independent judiciary to adjudicate on electoral disputes impartially. These recommendations were not taken up for the 2016 elections.

Beyond the legal framework, the concentration of power in the presidency and the use of the security agencies beyond their constitutional mandate sends a message to voters that the playing field is not level and undermines confidence in the electoral process. Throughout the electoral process, there have been several troubling incidents that continue to illustrate the trend of indiscriminate use of the Public Order Management Act (POMA) and Police Act as Amended (2006) against opposition candidates and parties. This is evidenced by the arrest of Rtd. Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye at least three times during the week of elections, as well as the disproportionate use of force, including tear gas and live ammunition, on opposition supporters and other Ugandans.

As previously reported in the CEON-U long-term observation reports over the past six months, we have observed widespread abuse of state resources, such as using government vehicles, staff or buildings to conduct meetings, rallies and campaigns.1 Most candidates have spent money on bribing voters and election officials. CEON-U’s 223 LTOs observed a consistently higher number of these abuses by NRM presidential and parliamentary candidate agents compared to other candidates.

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Thursday, 25 February 2016 07:37

Ugandans, speak now, or forever hold your peace.

Written by

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.

Semakula Eddie

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)

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