Human Rights Defenders poke holes the 2021 electoral process
As the January 14, 2020 general elections draw closer, voters and other stakeholders are concerned that the technology to be used by the Electoral Commission is still a secret.
According to the Executive Director Center for Constitutional Governance, Sarah Bireete, the Electoral Commission has remained extremely secretive on the type of technology to be used in the voting exercise which raises questions on the credibility of the exercise.
In his 2016 electoral petition former presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi, the Supreme Court recommended that the Electoral body uses technology in the 2021 election with well spelt out guidelines, regulations on its operations to both the voters and the Electoral Commission.
However, the commission has not come out to respect the super court ruling and guidance.
Bireete recalls that in February Parliament changed laws to provide for use of technology in elections but that this was supposed to be facilitated by regulations made the parent ministry of Justice and constitutional Affairs.
She further adds that the Electoral Commission together with the line ministry (ministry of Justice) failed to enact regulations clearly stating how the biometric machines are going to be used in this exercise.
“We do not have information as to whether these machines have been procured, I do not know whether this technology has arrived, we do not know whether the media has witnessed the arrival of this technology, we don’t know the type of technology we are going to use on 14th January 2020,” Bireete said.
Bireete also cautions the government on the increasing criminalization of citizens during this political season adding that such acts are impacting negatively on citizen’s civic rights to participate in the coming polls.
She stresses that journalists covering president Museveni are very safe while their colleagues covering opposition leaders are unsafe, they have been beaten, shot at and they have been brutalized.
“You go on a campaign trail with helmets and the protective gear as if you are war correspondents in an election? Uganda claims to be a democratic country and this democracy should not be in theory. You have seen naming of civil society as people funding terrorism, as people working with enemies of Uganda to over throw a legitimate government, but… we have criminalization of citizens by executive, one arm of government claiming that we are at war”-Bireete adds.
In the same vein, the Executive Director Innovations for Democratic Engagement and Action (IDEA) Job Kijja tasks the government to take full charge of the situation and governance of the nation during this political time.
Kijja notes that the government has remained very silent as security organs continue to abduct citizens mainly those thought not to be supporting the regime.
He says, such acts have been witnessed in many parts of the country and authorities have not come out clear on the kidnappings of citizens by security operatives.
He mentions that on December 24, 2020 at Rosebud industries a one Godfrey Kasoma and other workers were abducted by men in Uniform and others plain clothes gun welding men masked these people and disappeared.
“We currently have a government that is overly present but also that is not in charge and the government needs to show us that they are in charge because we are seeing senseless abductions, only this morning, I have received not less than 5 messages of individuals saying their people are missing”-Kijja concludes.
Now Uganda’s special UN Human Rights rapporteur, Margaret Ssekajja calls for equitable dispensation of justice during and after this electoral period across the country.
Ssekajja’s remarks follow the continued arrest and brutalization of opposition presidential candidates, their supporters and members of the campaign trail.
The former chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission notes that regardless of a person’s political affiliation there is no need for security organs to oppress them as they go about canvassing for support.
Ssekajja further warns that such discriminating acts are likely to see a rise of hundreds of electoral petitions discrediting the whole exercise.
The renowned Human rights defender challenges the Electoral Commission to fully own up the exercise to avoid any further abuses in the remaining days.
“We have seen what is going on in this period and the fact is that the security agencies have not been fair to some of the people involved in the electoral campaigns. We need equitable treatment, we need justice and fairness,” Ssekajja emphasized