By Godfrey Mwesigye
It is now seventeen years since Uganda last conducted elections for Local council one (LC1) leaders in 2001. Apparently, the LC1 leaders in place are those who were elected seventeen years or replaced when the previous LC1 died. The elections have always been postponed on several occasions.
The most recent one is that of last year which was meant to take place in November but was paused by the court case (James Tweheyo and others Vs Uganda Electoral Commission, November 21st 2017) that challenged it on grounds that it was going to exclude students and pupils who were eligible voters and were to be in school at the time of the election. The case was dropped after the two parties resolved their matters out of court.
The electoral commission released a roadmap for the election of village and women councils which will be held in July this year. The women council leaders were voted on 3rd July while LC1 Chairperson Elections shall be held on 10th July this year. This is according to the Electoral Commission Chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama.
One of the most primordial and outdated ways of voting which are by lining-up is the one that will be used in the voting exercise. This method of voting may have its own pros and cons. The only advantage of such way of voting as the government claims is that it saves resources but it is a trade-off of confidentiality in the voting exercise.
Opting for lining up instead of secret ballot will bring fear among the voters to select the leaders of their choice. This is because lining up allows other voters to know which candidate one has elected. This could also result in hatred among different supporters because of the political differences.
French Ambassador Stephanie Rivoal said that the European Union had offered to fund the LC elections by secret ballot but the government did not get back to them. She expressed fear of intimidation during the lining up behind candidates. This she said in a brief meeting held on 27th June 2018 by the Speaker of Parliament of Uganda Rt. Honourable Rebecca Kadaga and the Heads of Missions accredited to Uganda.
What remains unclear is why the government would not opt for secret ballot voting even after the European Union was willing to fund them. Could there be any hidden motives?
The EC Chairperson Simon Byabakama said to the media in May this year that the government released 6.2 billion to fund the LC1 elections in a press conference at the EC headquarters in Kampala. Initially, the government had promised 15.9 billion for the same exercise but 6 billion shillings of this was used in the registration of voters and other related activities. The EC boss noted that the data used in the 2016 general elections, Uganda had over 57842 villages however he also revealed that there is an additional of 1138 new villages that have been added onto the existing ones.
It is because of these many numbers of villages (LC1s), that the government argues that it does not have enough resources to finance secret ballot elections. As earlier mentioned the European Union was willing to finance the LC1 elections through the government of Uganda was hesitant to take up the offer. This leaves a question of whether this election process will be free and fair.
Other factors notwithstanding, the LC1 chairperson elections will be held on 10th July in this year and voting is by lining-up not by ballot voting. I opine that the validity and credibility of LC elections are at stake if this issue remains unaddressed in these elections and in the future.