As she began to address a press conference called by women activists to speak out against sexual harassment of female employees by foreign investors, former ethics minister, Miria Matembe broke down and wept. I didn't know that our women are being dehumanised to this level by these so called investors under our nose," she said. "This degradation is turning Ugandans into nothing in their country."
And then a sobbing Matembe pronounced herself against sexual harassment of female employees, calling for castration of foreign investors who perpetrate the vice. Matembe noted that whereas Ugandans welcome investors to the country, they wouldn't stomach those who do not have respect for values and rights of women. She challenged Ugandans to rise up and take on any investor who harasses his female employees.
This is yet another time Matembe has lost her cool and agitated for the castration of perpetrators of sexual offenses against women. When she was still ethics minister, she called for castration of men who defiled minors and raped women.
Hon Maria Matembe
Before she made the remarks on Wednesday, Matembe first listened to testimonies from two young Ugandan women who narrated how they were forced to help their bosses masturbate in their offices. One of the women was Jamila Opondo, 31, who came to the limelight recently after accusing property mogul and AYA boss, Mohammed Mohd Hamid of beating her up whenever she refused to have oral sex with him in his office.
Opondo, who joined AYA Group of Companies as a logistics officer in 2015 explained that it had become a habit for her boss to grope her breasts and bums whenever he summoned her to his office. She said, "But the highlight happened on March 20 when he called me to his office, closed the door while his gun rested on his table and forced me into having oral sex."
That's when she ran to the Central Police Station (CPS) in Kampala and later to Old Kampala Police station to file a case against him which did not yield any results.
From the foregoing, it can be seen that the road to free and stable Uganda is still thorny.
The conditions for ensuring a stable and sustainable peace have to be tackled primarily at the economic level. But for this to happen, state officials, including ministers and parliamentarians, must be accountable to the people and be subject to their power. This is the only way corruption and graft, which have resulted in billions of dollars, which should have gone to social economic development, being stolen over the last 15 years, can be checked.
Militarism, which dominated the thinking in the ruling party, has ensured that large amounts of state funds from the national budget are allocated to the army. At one time this was estimated to be as high as 60 per cent of the total budget.
If insecurity has in part to be traced to poverty and lack of economic and social development, then the dominance of the armed forces in the political economy of the country has to be seen as a factor contributing to the future instability of the country. It has to be seen as a factor contributing to the future instability of the country, which will result from further impoverishment of the people.
The mere fact that the top officials in the army have the possibilities of accumulating wealth through corruption, which they use to build mansions for themselves, denies the people not only the means of development , but also ensure that the army has a vested interest in maintaining themselves in power.
An oppressive state whose economic and social structures are riddled with high-level corruption generating widespread poverty can only result in the political disempowerment of the affected population.
Today, the outcry throughout the country is against the widening and deepening poverty in which the poor can survive by partly disenfranchising themselves through “selling “ their voting rights to elect people who will not represent them but will instead join the corruption bridges to recover what they “lost” to the people during their electioneering.
Such impoverished and disenfranchised people cannot have ‘sovereignty “power and control over state institutions.
To the contrary, they become victims of the very institutions which they created. They are thus disempowered and further impoverished in the process.
Such a population cannot enjoy “positive peace”, they can only become victims of negative peace” which is a form of war whose real purpose is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standards of living of the people.
Therefore, they find themselves in this kind of perpetual warfare to maintain peace and being disempowered in the process, people in the Ugandan situation resorted to finding another form of positive peace through socio cultural actions.
This include some restoration of self respect and human dignity through cultural identity, restore some kind of morality in general human relations by returning to the “roots” of things as a way of finding “inner peace”.
In the modern world, which is crumbling because of these contradictions, this socio-cultural peace can only be transitory.
It is a temporary resort but which in itself has no prospect of sustaining individuals on any long-term basis. It has to interpret the reality around it more carefully because some of this reality tends to contradict the socio cultural identity which is desired.
It has to find a new synthesis with these contradictory forces which exist beside it. On the basis of this reconciliation, some kind of future sustainable peace and stability can be found in a new world.
In a nut shell, for democratisation to be achieved, people should have some influence over government policies. But I cannot see how this can be achieved in the short- or even medium-term given the present political and prevailing socio-economic situation in Uganda.
Ms Bwiire works with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI)
This story was filed by The Daily Monitor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Foundation for Human Initiative is concerned about the growing level of injustice meted upon Ugandans employed by foreign investors. To this end the Executive Director, Foundation For Human Rights Initiative, Dr Livingstone Sewanyana at a press Conference yesterday, Wednesday April 19, 2017 called for the speedy trial of investors and foreigners who employ Ugandans, but dehumanize them and treat them unlawfully while at their places of work. Jamila Opondo, 31, came to the Foundation For Human Rights Initiative seeking probono legal services from the Legal Services Division
Opondo accused property mogul and AYA boss, Mohammed Mohd Hamid of beating her up whenever she refused to have oral sex with him in his office. She narrated to the, George Musisi, a lawyer at the Foundation, how her boss sexually abused her at gun point. Opondo, joined AYA Group of Companies as a logistics officer in 2015 and said her boss, Mohammed had made it a habit to grab her breasts and bums whenever he summoned her to his office.
Dr. Sewanyana said: the Foundation was going to follow through Opondo’s case until justice is attained. “I am optimistic that Opondo’s case will send a warning message to all foreign investors who think that they will abuse Ugandans and walk scot-free that it is not business as usual,” he said. Dr Sewanyana convened other civil society players from Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET), Women in Democracy (WDG/N), Platform for Labour Action, Legal Aid Service Providers (LASPNET) and the Human Rights Network for Journalists in Uganda (HRNJ) at a press conference in the FHRI boardroom to speak out about the vice. Quoting the Employment Act of Uganda, Section 7; Dr. Sewanyana said: “Sexual harassment is illegal and is punishable by law.”
DR Miria Matembe, one of the activists who attended the press conference tasked the media to keep Opondo’s story alive and vowed not to give up fighting for justice even if it meant meeting the President to seek his intervention on the matter.
By Lucy Peace Nantume
On 11th April 2017, Amnesty International released its global report titled “Death Sentences and Executions 2016”. This comes at a crucial time on the Christian calendar of yet another commemoration of an execution of an innocent man over 2017 years ago and thus a great reminder of how flawed the justice systems can be and one of the main reasons for advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty.
According to the report, Amnesty recorded 60 exonerations of prisoners under sentence of death in 9 countries: Bangladesh (4), China (5), Ghana (1), Kuwait (5), Mauritania (1), Nigeria (32), Sudan (9), Taiwan (1) and Viet Nam (2). Exoneration is the process whereby, after sentencing and the conclusion of the appeals process, the convicted person is later cleared from blame or acquitted of the criminal charge, and therefore is regarded as innocent in the eyes of the law. Many however do not leave to see that day.
World over however, progress has been registered in ridding the justice systems of the death sentence. 172 (89%) of the 193 member states of the UN were execution-free in 2016 including Uganda. As of 31 December 2016, 141 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Of these, 104 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes an increase from the 64 recorded 20 years ago in 1997; 7 had abolished for ordinary crimes and retained only for exceptional crimes such as those under military law; 30 are abolitionist in practice having not executed anyone during the last 10 years and having an established policy or practice of not carrying out executions while 57 are retentionist i.e. countries retaining death penalty for ordinary crimes. The newest entrants on the abolitionist list were Benin where the Constitutional Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional on 21 January; Nauru where a revised Criminal Code which does not include the death penalty among permissible punishments came into force on 12 May and Guinea where the President promulgated the revised Criminal Code which abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes only.
Although Uganda has not carried out any executions since I999 (for civilian) and 2005 (for military), it is still categorised as a retentionist instead of abolitionist de facto country because it rejected all recommendations to abolish the death penalty at its last Universal Periodic Review before the U.N. Human Rights Council and signed four Notes Verbales denouncing the U.N. General Assembly’s Resolution to impose a global moratorium on the use of capital punishment. It is however worth noting that during the vote in 2014, for the first time Uganda abstained from voting instead of its previous vote against and maintained the abstinence during the vote in 2016 an applauded positive step towards abolition. Mitigations conducted towards the end of 2016 saw Uganda’s death row population decrease to 176 however this is still among the highest in Sub Saharan Africa and at 28, it has the highest number of offences attracting the death sentence in the East African region. A private members’ bill aimed at among others reducing the number of offences attracting the death sentence is before parliament for consideration. If passed into law, this will take Uganda one-step ahead in the journey towards full abolition of this barbaric sentence, which does not effectively serve the aims of a punishment. As Albert Camus wrote in a 1956 book called Reflections on the Guillotine, Resistance, Rebellion & Death: An execution is not simply death. It is just as different from the deprivation of life as a concentration camp is from prison. For there to be an equivalency, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life.
The writer is a rights lawyer and human rights activist working with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI)
By JULIUS OCUNGI & ROBERT OWOT
Violence has broken out in Agangura Sub-county, in Aruu North where by-elections are underway for the area Member of Parliament.
According to an account by Citizen Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) coordinator, Crispin Kaheru, a group of youth from Kitgum entering Aruu North was intercepted by residents before violence ensued.
“The youth were moving in four trucks whenthey were intercepted after theresidents suspected them oftrying to access the area and vote illegally. The group then started beating people. One person has been injured and is now admitted,” Mr Kaheru saidon phone from Aruu
The injured person has been identified as Ms Margret Aciro,and is currently receiving treatment at AganguraHealthCentre III.
Meanwhile police has arrested the youth.
Speaking to Daily Monitor, the Electoral Commission spokesperson, Jotham Taremwa confirmed the incidence, adding that he was yet to confirm the cause of the violence.
"I have heard that some people were fighting, they have been reprimanded and I am heading there to find out what was the exact cause," he said.
"I can confirm now that the voting so far is generally progressing peacefully, and the number of voters in gradually increasing," Mr Taremwa said.
Voters in 95 polling stations in Aruu North County in Pader District go to the polls today to elect a member of parliament.
The electoral process started at 7am and is expected to close at 4pm. Security and man power has been heightened by arrival of police officers and Electoral Commission officials from neighbouring districts.
During the February 2016 polls, 24,300 people voted while approximately 2,220 new voters were registered. Voting materials which arrived in the district on Wednesday afternoon were received by agents of candidates and some voters.
LOW TURN UP
Most of the polling stations visited opened at 7am, but few voters had turned up for the voting exercise.
At Papaa Primary School polling station in Lapul Sub-county, by 7:20am, no voter had tuned out to vote out of the 150 registered voters.
Mr Daniel Rukama, the presiding officer said because no one had turned up, they could not cut open the seal of the ballot boxes.
"We are still waiting for the first five voters to witness the opening of the ballot box before we can begin the voting exercise," Mr Rukama said.
He said the no-show could be because voters had first gone to attend to their gardens before coming to vote later in the day.
At Abdallah A-Z in Lapul Sub-county polling station, voting began at 8am.
Mr Richard Oryema the presiding officer said all the voting materials were verified adding that no irregularities were found.
At Bar-Odilo Polling Station, only 15 people had cast their votes by 8:45am.
In Pajule Sub-county, Busia polling station, by 7:25am, only one voter had cast the vote while 10 were waiting in line to vote.
The polling assistant Mr Bonny Okello, said they received all the, materials on time.
“The turn up is low at the moment. We have 489 voters at this polling station,” he said
At Ogan polling station and Paiula by 7:3am, voting had not yet started because no voter had turned up yet.
In Acholibur Primary School, voting started at 7:48am, with a turn up of about 50 people had cast their votes, 31 of whom were men and and 19 women out of the 489 registered voters.
One of the contestants Justin Boswell Oryema, Independent, who voted at Ogom Primary School in Angagura Sub-county, said the voter’s turn up is very low.
“I have voted but there is a deliberate move to rig the votes,” he said
Pader District EC registrar Joseph Omona said the turn up of voters is fair as some people have preferred to attend to their gardens before they could come for voting.
There are 48,492 voters in Aruu North, 95 polling stations across the seven sub-counties.
This story was Published by the Daily Monitor
According to the recent report from the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI): “Justice delayed is Justice denied “ Prisons are holding perhaps as high as three times the official capacity.
This has resulted in overcrowding which in turn has led to outbreak of diseases and making it easy to spread any infections. There is no rehabilitation that can take place in these circumstances and nothing is done to prepare the convicted person for his eventual release to society.
Most importantly however, it has come to be appreciated that imprisonment is an expensive exercise because those on remand are being fed using Government resources( Ugandan taxes) yet the alleged offenders are non productive to the country.
Even where financial resources are available, the prison budget is usually accorded low priority.
Several years of research by criminologists and sociologists world over have shown that imprisonment does not curb recidivism. On the contrary imprisonment is likely to harden even a non – serious offender.
The trend world over, particularly in the case of first and youthful offenders, is to shift away from punitive and retributive practices towards rehabilitative, educational restoratative options.
We should admit that there is a category of offender who should be incarcerated in order to protect society. Persons who commit serious offences such as murder, rape, robberies committed in circumstances of aggravation, traffic in hard drugs etc, deserve incarceration and in some cases for long periods.
In such cases, it is the protection of society aspect of punishment that should be emphasized
While most countries in Africa face the problem of overcrowding in their prisons, the reality of the situation is that most of the persons to be found in these institutions are non – serious offenders who perhaps should never have been sent there in the first instance. And in other cases, accused persons end up serving as a consequence of failure to pay a fine.
If appropriate sentencing options were to be made available to the courts, fewer people would be sentenced to effective prison sentences. This would be very beneficial to the convicted person and to society.
The convicted person would avoid going to prison where he is likely to be contaminated by the worst elements in society. He continues to fend for his family, avoids stigma that normally flows from imprisonment, for society, there is considerable saving on the prison budget.
The convicted person is more likely than not to become a law-abiding citizen and a person sentences to imprisonment could become hardened during this period of incarceration and society would still have to live with him on his release.
Uganda should embark on programmes to divert convicted persons from prison and in some cases from prosecution. The rationale is to punish such persons for the wrongs done to society but at the same time ensure that they are kept out of prison.
These programmes have shown that while some funding is necessary initially set up such schemes, it is less expensive to keep non-serious offenders out of prison than in prison.
With the adoption of suitable dispositions on non-custodial alternatives, the problem of overcrowding in our prisons could considerably be reduced.
In conclusion, there are a number of situations where a prosecution is really not in the interests of the accused or the criminal justice system. It becomes necessary in such cases to divert the accused person from the formal criminal justice system but still ensure that the accused person is made to pay reparations for his wrongs in society.
Diversion is intended to complement and not replace community service order. This type of programme can be implemented with few resources.
There are other non-custodial sentences such as fines or wholly suspended prison sentences which are not always fully utilized by the court. I do not believe however that these really call for comment.
In society, there is need for several options. The whole problem of criminality requires a multi-prolonged approach. It needs to be tackled from different angles using different approaches.
The writer works with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative
- See more at: http://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1449848/uganda-adopt-custodial-sentence#sthash.lxiEbHYO.dpuf
In the village where I was raised in mid-western Uganda was a functional Resistance Council (RC), which later mutated into a Local Council (LC) with the adoption of the 1995 Constitution.
One of the members of the executive that has for a very long time stuck on my mind was the secretary for defence; he was called Mr Boniface Byaruhanga.
Because of his active service, he was later to be commonly known as “Byaruhanga Defence”. He did a super amazing job! God rest his soul in eternal peace.
This man generally kept the village defended and safe. He outwitted petty thieves, burglars and any form of criminals.
For some reason, he knew everyone in the village; a village that sheltered slightly more than 800 folks. We felt safe even on those days when we occasionally walked through the thick tree-lined avenues of Kabalega village in the wee hours of the night.
I remember an incident when someone broke into our pantry and stole a sack of onions; on reporting the incident, Byaruhanga retrieved the loot within a matter of minutes. His intelligence was unmatched. His knowledge of the wrong elements on the village was unrivalled.
‘A supreme system’
Local as it might have been, Byaruhanga and his colleagues built a supreme system of knowing who came in to the village the previous day or night, where they were staying, and for how long. Now, such are the lowly folks that deserve medallic recognition for their service, contribution and accomplishments.
Courtesy of functional Local Councils, spring wells were always clean, village roads functional – and residents regularly met to discuss and collectively find solutions to issues affecting them. In fact, the Local Councils were by default ambassadors of Bulungi bwansi (community service).
In recent years, all this seems to have suffered a dramatic turn in many places. Some LCs are loathed as harbingers of scam. Their conduct as they scheme to collect stamp fees from unsuspecting residents is akin to that of Zacchaeus, Jericho’s biblical tax collector.
Today, many of them are labelled as collaborators in fraudulent land sales and many other wrong acts. But because we have not had duly elected LCs in more than a decade, those who now claim to be LCs could pass for impostors. And as you know, impersonation and misconduct normally lurk around one another.
Be that as it may, LCs are an important infrastructure for crime control and neighbourhood cohesiveness – we have seen them play this role in the past and they have done it well – at one point.
Now, let me quickly turn to the main subject of my writing today.
Recently, Mr Museveni called for the installation of CCTV cameras in public places. And by the way, this was not the first time he made such a call.
In 2013, the President ordered the then Internal Affairs minister, late Gen Aronda Nyakairima to install CCTV cameras in the Kampala metropolitan area – covering Kampala, Mukono and Wakiso districts.
Grapevine has it that courtesy of the President’s recent directive, we are set to cough a screaming Shs400 billion. A week or so ago, Finance minister Matia Kasaija broke government’s suspicious inaudible manoeuvres on the LC elections announcing that there was no few billions available to conduct the much awaited LC elections.
Ugandans have waited patiently for more than a decade to have legally constituted Local Councils at village and parish level – these have not been forthcoming because, ‘there hasn’t been money’ to hold the elections.
Should Ugandans be surprised that it may turn out easier to obtain Shs400 billion to procure CCTV cameras and not find Shs16 billion to fill the local council structures?
Is it surprising that as a country, we would rather pay out billions to procure machines rather than invest a fraction of those billions in people (LC) structures? Would we rather machines replace us or would we rather have humans work with machines?
We need the cameras to work with a robust human infrastructure on the ground. In this case, CCTV cameras would only complement the work of functional structures such LCs, neighbourhood watch, community policing to keep crime at bay. If the human structures are either not in place or not functional, then sadly, technology may not be of much help.
Understanding of human worth
May be, what we need is not entirely in the installation of CCTV cameras, but an understanding of our own collective social and human worth. Let us not fall for the conjecture that cameras will guarantee safety and security in our communities.
Our neighbours and relatives are plenty, good enough to do that ‘human’ job – better.
I know no matter how much we cry and froth the decision has been made. It is final. No amount of writing, talking or counter-arguments may help us take a step back and think through the logic. So, CCTV cameras it is!
May be this is the time to realise that the horse has bolted and all we need to do is say – two prayers. The first prayer should open our eyes to our supreme human worth over machines; the second prayer should be aimed at breaking that familiar jinx that comes with such large public procurements – here in Uganda.
Let’s pray that that sprite does not strike again and we end up with the usual monkey business.
The writer is coordinator, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda
This Article was Published by The Daily Monitor
Written by Sadab Kitatta Kaaya
Last week, the government announced that it is postponing the LC-I and LC-II elections, which were scheduled on March 17, to 2018.
The postponement, which the government attributed to lack of funds, angered some political and civil society activists. However, DR LIVINGSTONE Sewanyana, the chairman of the Citizens' Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (Ccedu), tells Sadab Kitatta Kaaya that it offers a chance to amend the recently passed Local Governments Act, which scrapped secret voting in favour of lining up behind candidates.
How do you look at the government’s decision to postpone the LC elections?
It gives us enough time to lobby for the necessary amendments to the law (Local Governments Act) so that we can have, whenever appropriate, elections by secret ballot. This of course would include amending the law either following a court decision or a bill being brought before Parliament.
It should also afford government an opportunity to raise the necessary funds given that they had earlier argued that they didn’t have enough funds to hold elections by secret ballot. That is why they preferred lining up [behind candidates], which they argued was a cheaper option.
Dr Livingstone Sewanyana
Why is CCEDU opposed to the section of the law that provides for lining up behind candidates?
CCEDU, as a point of principle, welcomes the elections because we consider them to be important to grassroots democracy and effective dispute resolution. Ugandans have lacked legitimate leaders at that level for so long. However, the proposed mode of electing LC-Is and LC-IIs by lining up runs contrary not only to agreed principles but the spirit of elections.
We go back to the Constitution, Article 68(1), [which] provides for elections to be held by secret ballot, be it presidential, parliamentary or local government elections. However, Article 68(6) gives room to government to hold elections by another method provided the process will ensure free and fair elections.
Still, the Constitution does provide for elections, presidential, parliamentary and local government to be held on the same day unless it is impracticable. CCEDU is opposed to holding [LC] elections under the Local Governments (Amendment) Act on a number of grounds.
One, when they amended the law, they gave one justification; that they had financial difficulties and, as such, holding elections by secret ballot would be very expensive and unaffordable.
One wonders why in 2016, when Uganda held presidential, parliamentary and local government elections – that is [for] LC-III and LC-V – these elections [LC I and LC-II] were not held. Because the Constitution [says]; “Unless it is practically impossible.” They did not justify why they did not hold those elections then and what was impracticable at that time.
Two, the LC-Is and LC-IIs, we are talking about have both administrative and judicial responsibilities. At the level of a community, unlike for a Member of Parliament [MP] or president, everyone knows the other person. When you say I have to stand behind my preferred candidate, it presupposes a lot of things like, I have made a choice among members of the community. That creates a wedge between me and the rest of the community and that is very dangerous because [it can be] a source of conflict.
Number two, there are certain functions that are supposed to be performed by particular people within a community who definitely will find it difficult to line up behind candidates [and] effectively disenfranchise them.
This is substantiated by the various voices we have heard in our ongoing consultations in Kalungu, Kabarole, Busia, and Gulu, etc. These are people who have said that if elections are to be held by lining up, they will not vote.
Take, for example, priests, church leaders... they cannot be seen to discriminate among their faithful. They cannot say that, ‘I am going to stand behind candidate X as opposed to candidate Y.’ What does that mean in terms of their roles?
You think about a shopkeeper who ordinarily has to sell his or her items to all members of the community and you are asking him or her to choose between one resident or the other. What does that mean to his/her business?
Let’s take it to another level. When we elect [LCs], they are not only supposed to play the administrative role of endorsing your application for a visa or passport, but they also play the judicial function as LC-I court and LC II courts. As courts, they are supposed to be impartial and unbiased. It is human [nature]; there is no way someone whom you didn’t line behind will treat you impartially.
Where do you get all these fears because lining up behind candidates was the practice in the early days of the NRM?
One needs to appreciate that when we lined up shortly after NRM had just come to power, we were under a movement system of government and, as such, we did not have the political differences that we have at the moment.
If you recall, it was just a matter of X vis-à-vis Y, and it didn’t really matter what your political affiliation was. So, ever since that time, our society got so fractured; it has never been as polarised as it is now.
Number two, at that time, there was a high degree of romanticism with NRM; today it is a different story. The level of discontent, the level of discomfort is unheard of.
But also in terms of best practices; today, the world over, there is no country where elections, even at the smallest level, are held by lining up. Beyond that, even at the school level, even in the parties, even in the NRM itself which is vouching for lining up, it does not use lining up as a method. They all use secret ballots. So, there is no justification whatsoever for one to say, “Because in 1989 or in  we lined up, it is still possible today.”
Based on the voices of the people, it is already very clear. What this is going to do is to reverse the gains we have made. Which are these gains? Ever since we started campaigning for electoral democracy, we have been working to reverse the voter apathy that this country has been experiencing.
If you go back to the elections of 2006, 2011 and 2016, you realise that the campaigns we have had as CCEDU [such as] Honour your Vote, Votability, and the recent one (Topowa), have had one major effect – to reverse voter apathy.
Voter apathy has been reversed from as low as 40 per cent to 59 per cent and now 68 per cent in the recent elections which was unprecedented. We are likely to again reverse that because we foresee so many people, especially the youths and elites, who are very likely not to vote.
The women, on the other hand, have their own set of concerns. They don’t want to find themselves in situations of conflict with their families. What that means is that, if I am a member of the family and I am not comfortable voting a particular candidate, I have one option; to abstain because if I don’t, then, naturally, that would bring conflict in the family.
We think that this is a recipe for disaster to have elections by lining up. Let’s go back to the argument that government has been peddling [on] why they want [LC] elections to be held by lining up. They say they cannot afford the cost it would take to hold elections by secret ballot.
We have had a discussion with the Electoral Commission and various other people [and], according to the consultations, there is a possibility of even holding these elections by secret ballot more cheaply than they anticipate.
We are talking about people who know each other in the community. They have said, “Look, if you don’t have money to print ballot papers, for us, what we only need are ballot boxes [and] proper standardised paper [so] we [can] write the names of the people we prefer among the candidates, we cast them in the ballot box and, at the end of the day, you count.”
How about those that can’t write?
You thumb-print. The proposal is that you have different colours because elections now are according to political affiliation. So if NRM is yellow, DP is green, FDC is blue, etc; the only difficulty would be with the Independents. So, you can say, white is for independents.
The point is, if I am vouching for Mr Kitatta who is party X and colour X, the person can thumbprint on that piece of paper which is of that colour and casts the vote. It is possible to actually hold these elections by secret ballot more affordably.
There is also the issue of time. With a secret ballot, you designate the period, say from 7am to 4pm, and people are free to come, cast their votes, go away, and come back, if they wish, at the time of counting.
With lining up, the assumption is that everyone who is going to vote has to be in that line from morning up to when everybody is done. The question is; how do you handle that? This is the problem that was made known to us by the EC; it is a dilemma they are facing. It poses practical problems which are very difficult to deal with here.
But there is also another aspect. With a secret ballot, you can designate in one particular location various polling stations with different ballot boxes, because in some areas they don’t have a lot of open space where you can vote from.
In 1989 [and] 2002, some of those places were there but today, they are not. Just look here [Human Rights House, Nsambya], that used to be a polling station [but] it has been taken over. So even the spaces where people can line are very limited. In fact the EC was telling us that if people have to line, the whole village has to come, [but] in some places there are no places where people can line.
So, whoever amended the law did not visualise what it means. There are people that have been wondering why these arguments are coming now. I think this is one of the most unfortunate situations because, whenever we have laws before Parliament, civil society is called upon to give views.
Normally, the Clerk to Parliament, through the different committee clerks, writes to us inviting us to give views on a particular bill. No such consultation ever took place; everyone just woke up on the question of the amendment because the recent amendment was about two days for registration and so on. That’s when people realised that actually, in 2015, this particular law was amended to remove secret ballot and provide for lining up which was a very unfortunate situation.
Are you then planning to challenge it in court?
Yes. Among the measures we have taken is to reach out to the authorities. We wrote to the president an open letter [which] we disseminated widely to political parties, government officials, the Speaker [of Parliament], etc. Secondly, we are carrying out public consultations and so far, everywhere we go, [about] 85 per cent have one unanimous voice that, “If we are going to line up, we are not going to vote.”
We have also had consultations with the EC and are also planning to reach out to the attorney General. But on another level, we think that the law has to be amended. So, we have put together a legal team and very soon we shall be lodging a petition in court to challenge this particular legal provision.
The public consultations you talk about remind me of a similar exercise you conducted ahead of the 2015 amendment of the Constitution. You didn’t achieve anything out of that exercise. Where do you get the confidence that the current campaign is not in futility?
Of course there are no guarantees that the views [from the consultations] will be heard and respected, but the reason why we are carrying out these public consultations is to gauge the attitude of the people towards these elections. We don’t want to impose our own ideas onto the population because, many times, we are challenged that we the elites in Kampala sit and think for the population.
We wanted, before we go to court, to generate views from the public because our concern is disenfranchising the population. We wouldn’t be happy to see [only] 20 to 30 per cent of the population vote.
If you remember the 2016 elections, after registering a very high turnout at presidential and parliamentary elections, at local government elections, LC-V and LC-III, the numbers were very annoying, and it is likely to be worse [for the LC-I and LC-II elections] because a number of people will be disenfranchised.
So, the reason why we are going out there is to find out from the people what they think about this mode of election because if they overwhelmingly come out and say, “Oh yes, for us we shall vote whether it is lining up or secret ballot,” then definitely we wouldn’t have the legal challenge.
We are also raising a petition; people are signing a petition, and we are going to bring it to the attention of Parliament. So, we are saying, there are no guarantees here; we could still have these elections by lining up but the message will have gone out clearly, people will have spoken, and when the court also speaks to it, then whatever the outcome, we think we will have done our job.
Our concern is that Ugandans are entitled to vote, and voting means making informed choices without undue influence, which of course lining up is all about.
This story was published by The Observer
Human Rights Centre Uganda has launched an online advocacy portal to be used to collect and share information on human rights abuses across the country.
According to the local civil society organization, the information will be used as evidence in human rights abuse cases against state organs.
Dr Livingstone Sewanyana, the executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHTI), said lack of information and evidence over the years has derailed efforts of advocating and prosecuting cases against abuses of human rights defenders and other people.
“The world looks to human rights defenders to expose violations but the exposures should be backed by evidence and with the new web-portal, we are going to do what it takes to pass and collect information,”
Dr Sewanyana said in a speech at the 5th Human Rights Defenders annual forum held in Kampala on March 21. He said local human rights defenders should have information of their own, which international agencies will need to handle cases presented before them. The theme of this year’s forum was “Harnessing grassroots and national strength: empowering Human rights defenders for better human rights protection and advocacy in Uganda.”
“All courts will want evidence that is credible and local, United Nations, Amnesty International, African Union Commission for Human Rights will always need information when we present our case before them,” he said, adding; “We have decided to develop the information tool to enable us gather information from the grassroots, district level to the national level; we defenders are ordained to speak the truth but the truth should have evidence.”
“We must have something to offer; if there are abuses and we don’t report, have no evidence, then we have done nothing. What makes us tick is the information,” he said.
How it works
Margaret Sekagya, the executive director of Human Rights Centre Uganda, said the centre would recruit members to manage all information collected. The members, she said, would be allowed to upload the information.
“All defendants from the grassroots to national level are going to sign up for membership which will allow them share information collected, information will also be updated, members will also access advocacy trainings online,” she said.
So, what if the late assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi was taking his children to school, or worse yet, taking his lovely wife to the hospital to experience one of the most amazing and magical wonders of this world – giving birth, what then? Do these cold blooded assassins have any conscience? What kind of blood flows through their horrid veins, I wonder; it must be much greener and more smelly than foul bile.
He was treasured by many but yet loathed by some; it seems that is what charisma does to creatures that have dried raisins for balls; you want to take away power from the people in this country because you have none of your own. Sorry to bust your bubble but the more you lose yourself to this world the more your blood will become greener, filthier and drier in your veins.
It’s a pity what’s been happening in this country of late, Uganda seems to be dulling away by the second. First it was the Muslim clerics, then the Senior State Attorney, Joan Kagezi who was shot twice in the neck while her children were with her in the car. Then it was Mama Fiina’s husband–Maj Muhammad Kiggundu - who was shot dead along with his body guard last November. Then, the massacre in Kasese happened – still not sure exactly what and how it happened, then came the death of a six-month-year old baby in Kawanda early last week – purportedly strangled by a housemaid, who took off to Koboko, only to be arrested after a few days.
There have been numerous reports of poisoning of innocent families, school children and so much more! How have we become as shameless as dare devils?
We are no longer slaughtering people at night, because may be we think the Lord above is not watching; now we have resorted to shooting our fellow human beings in broad day light.
How dare does one shower someone’s child with more than 30 bullets as if we were celebrating his death-day?
What kind of society are we leaving behind for the next generation to inherit? Our children are living in fear of how tomorrow will be, “Will mummy come back home safely from work?” “I hope daddy arrives safely at his workplace, God please protect him.” They are having sleepless nights wondering whether their parents will be safe and not end up like their classmates’ father or mother, because they don’t know how they will be able to live without them.
Violence in our society is on the rise. We all need to have a little more caution and conscience in the lives that we are leading now or else we might destroy one another until there are only skeletons left roaming in this country.
We need to protect ourselves in order to progress as a nation, both socially, economically and politically. In order to ensure our security and wellbeing, we need to be mindful of all our leaders, from the bottom to the top of the pyramid. Are they there to protect us or forsake us, to guide us or lead us astray, to fight with us or against us? Our society and economy have to advance, we need to move forward.
Violence has never really been the answer, has it? This brings me to the pending LC 1 and LC 2 elections; that are long overdue. I will still stress that taking us back to lining-up to elect our local leaders instead of secret ballot is archaic and preposterous. It is a recipe to inciting more violence in our society. Many people are already infuriated with the proposal; why do we want to enrage them further?
We all have a right to secrecy when it comes to voting our leaders, I personally wouldn’t want to wake up in the morning to a gruesome and blood-spattered sight of my family, relatives or friends having been slaughtered, poisoned or showered with a million bullets because I decided to line up behind a preferred candidate X. Lining up to vote can only be one thing – disastrous. No one should have to live in fear of being slaughtered or murdered for doing a good thing like Kaweesi was doing, No way!
The Pearl of Africa better clean up its act immediately, and fast, before we all become wandering skeletons in our own land.
Mr Kaheru is the coordinator, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda.