The Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) applauds the Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda for adding his voice on the campaign for a peaceful, free and fair 2016 general election through his Press Statement dated 5th January 2016 (titled, “Maintaining peace, unity and security during and after elections”).
CCEDU has noted with concern that electoral violence remains a serious threat to the February 18th 2016 elections as evidenced by some of the incidents that have so far happened during the on-going political campaigns (recent clashes between candidates’ supporters in Ntungamo and Gulu). These cases of election-related violence continue to create a sense of terror and uncertainly among voters. And should such incidents of violence increase, questions on whether Uganda is capable of holding free, fair, peaceful and representative elections will inevitably emerge.
There is also worry that millions of nervous Ugandan voters could stay away from voting due to fear of violent attacks, threats or politically motivated intimidation.
CCEDU therefore calls upon parties and candidates to desist from acts that could orchestrate unnecessary anxiety and violence during the campaigning and voting period. Election stakeholders including the Uganda Police Force must demonstrate professionalism and impartiality in maintaining electoral security during this period. The Electoral Commission must dispense its mandate in a balanced and professional manner, calling each of the candidates and stakeholders to fully account for their actions/inactions.
CCEDU urges all political parties and candidates to desist from mobilising youth groups and militias to fuel fears or actualities of electoral violence. In the same breath, CCEDU calls upon government to seriously rethink its decision to utilise informal outfits including: ‘crime preventers’, ‘polling detectives’ for the purpose of providing election related security as this could further raise anxiety and possibly invite conflict, violence and chaos in the country. Ugandans have the right to vote in peace and all stakeholders are duty bound to take all necessary measures as provided in our laws to defend and protect that right.
Electoral violence and partisanship of institutions that should otherwise be guarantors of a free electoral environment are an obvious disincentive to participation in elections for both voters and those who wish to offer leadership. Ultimately, this undermines every effort at building a truly democratic country based on the supremacy of the people choosing their leaders. It also weakens state and non-state institutions that scrutinize elections, and hurt the legitimacy of the government of the day.
It is therefore, important that as the Prime Minister rightly points to opposition players in the election, government should equally urge its institutions to ensure utmost impartiality by working strictly within the ambits of the law. Local, regional and international institutions should therefore intensify working towards (timely) prevention of electoral violence ahead of the February 2016 general election in Uganda.