Uganda to hold LC 1 elec­tions af­ter a long wait­ing: But why lin­ing-up?

By: GOD­FREY MWE­SI­GYE

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.