FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2016
The post election season has been characterised by tension arising from the house arrest of lead opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye, a court case by former presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi and filing court petitions for MP, L.C and municipal elections.
The Citizen Election Observers Network- Uganda (CEON-U) is concerned that the continued house arrest of the lead opposition candidate infringes on his right to freedom according to article 23 of the constitution.
In article 43 of the constitution: (I) In the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms prescribed in this Chapter, no person shall prejudice the fundamental or other human rights and freedoms of others or the public interest.
(2) Public interest under this article shall not permit-
(a) political persecution;
(b) detention without trial;
(c) any limitation of the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms prescribed by this Chapter beyond what is acceptable and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society, or what is provided in this Constitution.
Section 24 of the police act gives the police a right to arrest someone if he is a threat to public security, but CEON-U demands that police produces evidence that makes Besigye a threat to public security, otherwise will his arrest be indefinite.
In a multiparty system, opposition parties should not be viewed as enemies of the state, but rather as groups that provide alternative Government programmes.
As part of a process of increasing citizen participation in Uganda’s electoral process, CEON-U recently carried out an opinion survey on the recently concluded general elections.
The survey was meant to expose electoral irregularities so as to provide a premise on how to better organise elections in Uganda.
Consequently; 8 CEON-U managers visited areas where there is conflict, court petitions and requests for vote recounts to establish the causes of the disputed elections. The team visited Tororo, Gulu, Kotido, Butambala, Serere, Jinja, Mayuge, Iganga, Mukono, Kasese, Bundibugyo and Ntungamo. The managers worked closely with our long-term observers who are natives of the constituencies and the districts which they observed, before, during and are observing after elections. CEON-U held focus group discussions with members of the community, local council leaders, opinion leaders and voters from all political parties in the districts.
CEON-U also met district police officials, district returning officers, registrars in courts of law and victims of electoral violence.
Generally, the presidential and parliamentary elections were peaceful, but the period leading up to the election day was volatile in all the districts visited. In Mayuge for instance a man died under unclear circumstances. He was a supporter of Robert Ntende, an independent candidate. He is said to have been killed by supporters of Idi Isabirye.
In Iganga at Idudi supporters of NRM and FDC clashed on the eve of elections over voter bribery. The NRM MP was giving out cash to voters who alerted FDC supporters. FDC supporters reacted by blocking the NRM from giving out money, the NRM called a NAADS soldier to rescue them. He came and shot dead a 25-year-old man and the crowd became more rowdy. And the soldier continued firing live bullets. In the process of the scuffle, a woman was shot through the arm and an s.3 student was shot through the neck. Both these people were not involved in the scuffle but had gone to the trading centre to buy food. This shooting took place at 8:00pm. (attached are the pictures of the victims of the shootings).
The way results were tabulated and announced at the district provided a sharp contrast with what the locals had gathered from the polling stations. This happened for all the elections, presidential, parliamentary, district council and municipal elections.
There are mainly two known political parties, the NRM and FDC; even though Uganda has 10 political parties. UPC which was once a known party is almost non-existent.
In a strong multi-party dispensation system people are given an opportunity to have divergent views on handling issues of governance. A weak political party system promotes a one party system of governance which impedes institutional growth.
The management of electoral processes by some of the district returning officials was poor.
A case in point is Jinja: When it came to the L.C.3 election of Walukuba West Parish B;
The LC 3 election had five candidates Joseph Bateganya Atumika, Bisusa Amisi Kafuko, Kirunda Isaac Kiwunda, Mande Milton and Mbulugu Emmanuel.
On Election day the ballot papers that were supplied to the polling stations had wrong names. Mande Milton was called Mande Milton Kirunda. Also party symbols were mixed up between the NRM candidate and FDC candidate. This was sufficient ground for the election to have been cancelled. However, even when the Jinja district returning officer, Ambrose Mwaita was notified about the anomaly he told the candidate Kirunda Isaac Kiwunda that electoral commission Jinja was not going to do anything about this case. A case has been filed against the electoral commission in Jinja court by Kirunda Isaac Kiwunda.
There are several other electoral disputes that have been filed in courts of law in the various districts. In Omoro Constituency there is a Petition: Simon Toolit Vs Oulanyah Jacob was logged in on March 24 2016. Simon Tollit is suing the Incumbent Oulanyah Jacob and EC over election mal practice. These included ballot boxes being kept away in a saloon, EC tampering with DR forms, EC using a Different format of the District DR Form to declare results among other things.
Intimidation and Violence:
In Katawi, Amuria, Bukedea and Serere there were cases of intimidation and violence. The community claimed they were beaten by militia groups and crime preventers and were warned against voting an opposition party into power. ( attached is a picture of the people who gave confessions during a focus group discussion)
In Mukono the parliamentary campaigns were characterised by violence and chaos. According to the electoral commission, Fatuma Ndisaba’s supporters used to beat up Betty Nambooze’s supporters during campaigns. There was also the problem of candidates campaigning beyond the stipulated for campaign time and supporters clashing after the campaigns.
The military should be restrained from participating in elections, because elections are volatile in nature. Electoral commission should improve its image by investigating and eventually laying off district returning officers who are said to have altered DR forms and extorted money from candidates who wanted to be announced winners. All political parties should be treated equally and respectfully by the Government in power. The Government should seriously consider the electoral reforms that civil society presented last year. Presiding officers and polling assistants should be better remunerated to prevent them from being compromised during elections. Management of elections is not a single days event. Planning and training of officials, desk officers, middle level managers, desk officers, heads of departments on the process of elections should start the second month after the general elections. Training presiding and polling officials should be done a month to the elections to minimise errors on the DR forms.
The democratic path is a long bumpy one, despite the many electoral irregularities that marred the recently concluded elections, the gains made over the last 30 years cannot just be thrown away. We need more concerted effort to promote true democratic ideals.
For more information about CEON-U contact Dr Martin Mwondha on 0788929052 or email firstname.lastname@example.org visit our website at http://www.ceonu.or.ug (CEON – Uganda) – Towards 2016: Conducting a Unified, Comprehensive and effective election Observation Mission in Uganda. You can also visit the FHRI offices in Nsambya.