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Uganda: Following government’s decision to conduct the Local Council 1& 2 elections by way of open voting (lining up), CCEDU has taken a position (15.01.2017)

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Your Excellency:

The Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) is the broadest active civil society coalition on issues of elections in Uganda, bringing together over 800 member organizations spread across the country. CCEDU has since its formation in 2009 worked towards promoting a social and political system that enhances fair, equitable and transparent electoral processes in the Republic of Uganda.

Your Excellency, in July 2015, the Parliament of Uganda passed the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2014 providing for lining up behind candidates during elections of chairpersons for village (LC1) and parish (LC2) levels. The voting method brought in effect by the Bill was a departure from what was originally provided for in the Local Government Act, of universal adult suffrage through secret ballot. Then Minister of Local Government, Hon. Adolf Mwesige, argued before Parliament that the cost of conducting village and parish elections through the method of secret ballot was too high and had made it impracticable for the elections to be held since 2002. On this ground, Hon. Mwesige convinced Parliament to vote in favor of amending the Local Government Act to consider an open voting method – which he argued was realistic and more affordable for the country.

Your Excellency, while we acknowledge that the open method of voting for the LC I and II may be viewed as financially more affordable and does not involve the same amount of logistics that would be required to run a secret ballot vote, we wish to draw your attention to the following:

1)   Article 68 (1) of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda sets a standard for voting at elections and referenda: “At a public election or referendum, voting shall, subject to the provisions of the Constitution, be by secret ballot using one ballot box at each polling station for all candidates in an election and for all sides in a referendum”.

2)   Article 25(b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Uganda is a state party, guarantees “the right of every eligible citizen to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections held by secret ballot”, and grounds this in the notion that “voting by secret ballot guarantees the free expression of the will of the electors”.

3)    The Universal Declaration on Democracy, a declaration adopted without a vote by the Inter-Parliamentary Council at its 161st session in Cairo on 16th September 1997 affirms the essential place of conducting democratic elections on the basis of universal, equal and secret suffrage for voters to choose their representatives in conditions of equality, openness and transparency that stimulate political competition.

Your Excellency, this implies that:

1)      It is a well-established practice that holding free and fair elections is one of the fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law; and the secrecy of voting remains a key aspect of free and fair elections. Government has a legal obligation to conduct public elections and referenda according to the standards set in the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

2)      Voters are not only entitled but also obliged to the secrecy of their vote. The method of voting proposed for LCI and II elections in which voters are required to line up behind their preferred candidates exposes the voters’ choice and violates this principle. As such, the open voting method does not safeguard the electors’ freedom of thought and their political and other beliefs. If Uganda is truly on a democratic path, then it should be seen to espouse a method of voting which ensures that the electorate is able to express itself freely and that elected representatives are truly representative, thereby contributing to public trust in the institution of local leadership.

3)      The proposed voting method violates the principle of anonymity of the voter. Freedom of opinion is endangered when a voter is prone to influence by threats of sanctions or reprisals. Open voting has time immemorial come with a lot of opportunity to influence or intimidate voters as they declare their choice by lining up behind their preferred candidates. In a country like Uganda where the population has over the years become deeply politically polarized, it is difficult to underestimate the influence and effect of fear of retribution that is embedded within an open voting system such as the proposed one. Within the context of Uganda today, the proposed method of voting is a ripe recipe of tension, vengeance and outright election-based violence – especially on the Election Day and in the aftermath of the elections.

4)      Free and fair voting principally demands that each voter makes an individual choice. Every person registered on the voters register must be able to express his or her choice in person, and this personal choice must be counted as such.  The mode of voting as prescribed under section 111 of the Local Governments Act, 2015 for village and parish elections is not consistent with this individuality principle and, in particular, constitutes a violation of gender equality and freedom of opinion.  The practice of open voting is reminiscent of days gone by of the reprehensible communal voting. In the Ugandan context, under an open voting system, it is likely that for instance, female voters may be unduly influenced to vote for candidates that their male counterparts, spouses or partners choose to vote for – for fear of catalyzing gender-based disagreement. In another case, for fear of going against their spouses’ electoral choice, female voters may decide to shun such open choice elections.  Modern societies including Uganda itself have denounced open voting methods as akin to primordial practices that infringe on voters own choice.

5)     Historically and contextually, electoral processes are highly prone to fraud and manipulation.  One of the primary reasons for the transition from ‘open’ forms of voting to the adoption of the secret ballot system in the 1800s was to help rid political systems of bribery.  Uganda is currently fighting the scourge of monetization of politics.  With an open voting system comes higher electoral stakes.   The higher the stakes, the higher the possibilities of voter bribery will be.  In effect, the possibilities of monetizing the local council elections that will be held under an open voting system remain high. The political players are quite optimistic of the eventualities very sure those voters are aware of the procedures and they will vote for them since it’s not secret.

Your Excellency, under Vision 2040, the Government of Uganda underpins the need for democracy as the anchor to transform the country. Similarly, the second National Development Plan (NDP II) recognises that without free and fair political and electoral processes, key development objectives cannot be achieved.  To this end, the NDP II proposes to institute mechanisms to strengthen credibility of electoral processes in Uganda and citizen participation in the electoral processes.

As the Fountain of Honour of our Nation, CCEDU would like to respectfully appeal to you, Your Excellency, to guarantee that:

  • The Government is indeed genuinely committed to holding free, fair and impartial elections; and considers such elections crucial for strengthening democracy and democratic institutions in Uganda.
  • The LCI and LCII elections are conducted in a manner that satisfies international and national legal obligations, commitments, practices and principles of; confidentiality of one’s electoral choice, anonymity and individuality of a voter. The elections must promote rather than undermine election legitimacy and integrity while reinforcing the notion of popular participation.

Your Excellency, CCEDU contends that the currently designated method of voting in the LCI and LCII elections not only fails to meet the constitutional and internationally provided for standards for conducting public elections, but is also fertile ground to foment conflict and sow seeds of discord in communities – thus undermining the hard earned peace, stability and unity in many parts of the country.

CCEDU appreciates that democratic electoral practices in Uganda are still affected by various national and contextual factors, traditions and limitations. While we recognize the importance of taking into account our country’s milieu and resource limitations, Your Excellency, we appeal against the latter being used as pretext for practices that undermine the basic principles of democracy and governing the conduct of free and fair elections.

Lastly, Your Excellency, CCEDU therefore proposes a more cost-effective option of the secret ballot method of voting in the LCI and LCII elections – in which voters record their (candidate) preference on a plain piece of paper in privacy – by way of writing or putting a thumb-print. We recommend the most basic form of secret ballot that uses standardized blank, plain or colour coded pieces of paper/cards upon which each voter marks his or her choice. Without revealing the choice to anyone, the voter in this case would fold his or her piece of paper with their marked choice and place it in a sealed ballot box. The ballot box is emptied later for the counting of the ballots. This method is not only financially affordable, but also preserves the secrecy of the ballot as well as expands possibilities for the electorate to participate in elections.

Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana

Chairperson, CCEDU Executive Committee

We thought we seen the worst; but the here comes the 20 Point Programme from Mzee!

Saturday Monitor 02.07.2016

Sometimes I think President Museveni is a bit too smart for himself, that must be it, as he have since start of his reign added and amended more plans than useful laws. That is something the world should know by now. He entered his first term after rebellion with the 10-Point Program that was supposed to reinvent and remake the democratic, accountability and facilitate the development of Uganda. Something that has been stalled for wish to stay in power and also his own nepotism, corruption and cronyism in government and state functions in general; together with no-need to leave the militaristic maneuvers of government.

“The NRM under the leadership of President Y. K. Museveni came up with the ten point programe of action. In 1987, Basing on the ten point program, President Museveni launched a Minimum Economic Recovery Programme followed by a series of reforms aimed at restoring macro-economic stability to provide a favourable environment for economic growth and private sector development. The key reforms were, liberalization, privatization, currency reform, changes in tax and fiscal policy plus restraining expansion in government expenditure while maintaining focus on economic recovery and growth” (Uganda 25 Years of Nation Building and Progress, Jan 1986 – Jan 2011, Printed: May 2011).

Museveni Cool Poster

That is why that when I read that President Museveni had the genius idea of a 20-Point Program, I was latterly laughing and crying in sadness of this so-called leader. Who supposed to lead and make change; after thirty years in power with a 81 Cabinet and created astonishing amounts of districts and sub-counties, that every town and nearly all villages have either one or two central LCV and other councilors to be bribed by the central-government. And in his genius attempt to spoilt the trade, he comes with another plan to cover over the atrocities and pledges that we’re recycled under campaigning in 2015 and 2016.

This comes from the leader who of late has already these wonderful plans to hold onto and supposed to finish in his lifetime, as he wants to promise the Ugandans the middle-Income position and also economic progress in the levels of South Korea and Singapore. Though, the corrupt and donor-friendly behavior is still necessary since the Petroleum money, is still not certain as it is still needed more development and investment before the profits from the black-oil drilled in the Lake Albert basin and Albertine region.

The first plan that was supposed to take over the failed 10-Point Program from the Economic and Development of the Republic, where the magical and all-covering; the Second plan the famous ‘Vision2040’, where all pieces of government and private sector we’re interconnected as the NRM-Regime had plans to reconfigure and also establish what they had did between 1986 and 2013. The plan that we’re released in 2013 said this: “a transformed Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years”; I do not feel the need to say how much further they have come in the last three years.

Hon. Francis Mwijukye said: "Today I visited Karungu government secondary in Karungu subcounty- Buhweju district where I found students studying under very disturbing circumstances" (Mwijukye, 25.06.2016)

Hon. Francis Mwijukye said: “Today I visited Karungu government secondary in Karungu subcounty- Buhweju district where I found students studying under very disturbing circumstances” (Mwijukye, 25.06.2016)

The third plan that comes to mind was the National Development Plan II (NDPII) who we’re drafted and surely released during the 2015, and we’re written March 3, 2015. This was a plan for the infrastructure projects and the defining projects that we’re interconnected with railroads and also the major road projects of the UNRA, which is certain a magnifying economic prospect as the investments in infrastructure as the unfolding economic problems, that recently was reported from UNRA. So the President has issues with this alone, before releasing the 20-Points Program of 2016.

So with the hearing of a new plan from the grand National Resistance Movement and the Presidency of 30 years, if he had finished or wished to finish the first plan, the 10-Point Program. But, that wouldn’t make the political battlefield and the regression of progress so obvious; if anybody believes he will ever finish a program or even sufficiently have due-diligence behind a new program, you should dream on or reconsider you thought pattern.

With the newly released 20-Program Plan of 2016, is a rehash of old-ideas into a new format with the mix of the Vision2040, 10-Point Program and the National Development Plan II. That is a combined of these visions, as the 10-Point program is totally out of whack, the 2040 is in the midst of it and been in the works for three years without any real progress on the matter. The NDPII is a framework for basic transport and infrastructure that are parts of all the three other plans. So, this is far from finish and with the UNRA troubles, the World Bank suspension and the others issues with financing the grand infrastructure projects of late, while the Standard Gauge Railway and the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP), which is a collective planning of infrastructure between the East African nations we’re it need cooperative effort from the countries.

issues clinton uganda

So with all of this in mind, when reading the progressive, the revolutionary, the rebels new plan like the monstrosity levels of belief that he can sell yet another amazing plan to the public and donors. The reassessment the donors should do is that this in the mass of affairs and tricks the NRM-Regime have come with for three decades and was supposed to be new-found governance; instead it has been more of the same, just in another name, another package and another head-honcho who been able to smile with Bill Clinton, Gadaffi and all the dignitaries that wanted spend money on his government and newly created institutions under his leadership. This has all happen, while the Western countries have accepted the atrocities and brutality against civilians for the peace and assurance of progression of democratic values that over time have been proven as fool’s gold.

The reality of this new Plan is to repackage the same of promises and the so-called progression of the government institutions and the civil service delivery as hospitals, schools and roads. Through the neo-liberal structural adjustment plan that we’re accepted to get more World Bank loans in the 1980s, while now because of less donor-funding adding more loans into the bloated government budgets together with bigger government spending on growing parliament, growing districts and sub-counties, while the added expenditure on the projects as the rising prices on roads with little due-diligence, higher interests on the fallen loans and the expenses on military equipment. This all with the steady level of inflation and proved little will to change the service delivery from the NRM-Regime, as the international community have let most of it go without any impunity or real care.

Old Stats Uganda

As even the European Union proudly did this recently after the fraudulent election they discredit in their own report, still they we’re so giddy to do this:

“Goverment of Uganda to hold political dialogue with European Union as mandated in Art 8 of Cotonou Agreement” (Emma Were Tinka, 28.06.2016). So the true ethics of the European Union and democratic values can be traded of with a decent agreement and when the NRM-Regime can even be validated by EU, this talk and consider, even sign the agreement, but they might not implement it; as the due-diligence have never been a thing for Museveni, so after all this year? Why should it all of a sudden matter?

This new plan is another one of his schemes and plot to get donor-aid and get funding for his nepotism, his cars and airplanes as the direct budget and the over-priced infrastructure projects have silenced his critics as that have been used on tear-gas, Russian fighter-jets and other needed procurement, not on fixing schools and buying school-books for the students. That is no-need and not proved added value. This 20-Program plan is just non-sense and the ones that buys into it, are long lost causes like Ofwono Opondo and Andrew Mwenda. Peace.

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