In the early hours of 11th September 2019, Civil Society Organizations in Uganda, led by the Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF) and the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy (CCEDU) appeared before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament to present their proposals and analysis of Election Related Bills tabled by the Attorney General on the 26th July 2019.
This follows a series of activities, including; a Comprehensive Analysis of the Five (5) Bills before parliament, Nationwide Stakeholder Consultations on the Bills and a review of various stakeholder proposals including the Supreme Court Recommendations in Presidential Election Petition No. 1 of 2016; the Domestic and International Election Observers’ Reports; the Citizens’ Compact for Free and Fair Elections; the Citizens’ Electoral Reform Agenda; Private and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
Before Parliament, CSO Representatives foregrounded the fact that their proposals are related and informed by what civil society have championed for a long time in the crusade for Free and Fair Elections and continue to do so in the quest for a positive democratic path for Uganda.
It is imperative to recall that, since the promulgation of its Constitution on October 8, 1995, Uganda has held five successive national elections (1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016) within the set Constitutional timeframes. However, since 2001, general elections in Uganda have ended in controversy. The 2001, 2006 and 2016 Presidential elections culminated in Court disputes while in 2011, the election ended in public demonstrations (walk-to-work protests). Through the three (3) Presidential petitions of 2001, 2006, and 2016, and numerous Parliamentary petitions, Courts have consistently held that our elections fall short of set out standards in the Constitution. Concerns about Government’s commitment towards a transparent and accountable electoral framework persist, owing to the lukewarm response to calls from election observers, political organizations, civil society organizations, and other independent observers.
It is against this background that civil society actors believe that without meaningful reforms, it would be meaningless for Ugandan’s to participate in the 2021 General Elections. As such, while the civil society believes that the five (5) electoral reform Bills are a step in the right direction, deeper analysis reveals that they do not suggest any significant shift from the status quo and cannot guarantee that Uganda will attain free and fair elections in their current form. This calls for parliament to look beyond the Bills and inquire into all stakeholders’ recommendations.
On their part, the Members of Parliament on the committee welcomed civil society recommendations and applauded the team for an excellent analysis of the Bills conducted. “This is by far the most comprehensive and professionally done analysis of the Bills that has been shared with the committee so far and we thank you – Civil Society for this.” Hon. Abdul Kantuntu, Member of the Committee. The chairperson of the committee also applauded the CSOs for presenting very comprehensive and well ‘thought-out’ proposals and promised to debate and consider every single proposal on its merits.
This intervention is part of the continued civil society advocacy campaign for a credible election management system undergirded by an impartial and independent Electoral Commission, a Credible Voters’ Register, reduction of the use of money in elections, prohibition of use of public resources for private political gain, regulating the role of the army and other public officers in partisan political activities, and the entrenchment of the principal of separation of powers, among others. CSO leaders promised to continue these efforts by mobilizing and organizing Ugandans to demand of their representatives to enact meaningful reforms and implored parliament to enact laws that promote constitutional governance in Uganda and guarantee free, fair and credible elections.
For more on this, please visit the links below:
Message to the Public on Electoral Reforms
CSO Analysis on Electoral Reform Bill
Citizen Memorandum to MPs
Story By Chris Nkwatsibwe