Uganda held her latest general elections just last year, 2021. These were the fourth to be organized under a multiparty political party dispensation since the promulgation of the 1995 constitution of the Republic of Uganda; the ﬁrst having been held in 2006, immediately after the 2005 referendum on choice of political system.
Thus the Electoral Commission as usual, has accordingly released a comprehensive report highlighting how the entire electoral process ensued.
Unlike the previous elections, the 2020 – 2021 elections encountered peculiar and diﬃcult challenges, mostly posed by the emergency of the Covid 19 pandemic. This directly hampered campaigns as public gatherings and hence rallies through which candidates normally woo voters for support were largely prohibited by cabinet and Parliament. It was an unprecedented scenario.
By law, the Electoral Commission was required to execute and fulfil its Constitutional mandate by organising these important elections within the stipulated time.
Worth-appreciating is the fact that the Electoral Commission had already prepared, presented, and partially implemented its road map. They had already disbursed abundant resources in this phased process. Cancelling the entire exercise abruptly after the mega expenditures would thus deeply injure the taxpayer.
Nonetheless the decision triggered some mixed reactions from the public. A cross section was pro – elections but in full observance of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and another called for cancelling of the elections altogether.
A Constitutional provision that dictates holding of Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government council elections within the ﬁrst 30 days of the last 122 days, meant that cancelling elections would cause a constitutional crisis especially on the legality of office bearers.
In spite of the unique challenges, the Electoral Commission deployed its already trained and skilled personnel and successfully delivered the milestones in the road map.
Since the launch of the roadmap on 11th December 2018, the Commission undertook various activities leading to the polling for all elective positions (Youth,
PWDS, Older Persons and Workers in 2020, then Presidential, General Parliamentary and local government councils in 2021.
In execution of its mandate, the Electoral commission does not work alone. It coordinates and brings on board a series of stakeholders such as the police and other security agencies, Political Parties, the Media, Civil Society organisations, election observers and monitors, both local and international.
Each of the above has its deﬁned mandate. Highlighting the role of security agencies, especially the police in particular, they are supposed to keep and guarantee law and order. Nevertheless the police and other agencies unfortunately did not properly respect the rights and liberties of Ugandans as required by the law. There were several cases of ugly high handedness which in some cases culminated in unnecessary loss of lives and property. Security agencies need to style up next time. The Electoral Commission should also endeavour to prevail over them as cruel actions tend to dent the would-be good work of the electoral process.
The Political Parties’ code of conduct has just been enacted, after the President assented to it in 2019.
The National Consultative Forum for Political Parties (NCF), which is mandated to enforce/ implement this nascent law, should come out robustly and eﬀectively to make this law known to the entire public through sensitization. This will provide mitigative measures against electoral crime and chaos.
Shortfalls notwithstanding, the Electoral body, under Chairperson Justice Byabakama Simon Mugenyi and Secretary Mulekwah Lenald, did their best and delivered a successful, free and fair election.
I urge members of the general public, especially those intending to aspire for political oﬃce next time, to take keen interest in the released report, read and internalise it for its broad beneﬁts. The elected leaders should deliver on their promises and provide the badly needed social services to the wanainchi and make concerted eﬀorts to improve their livelihood.
The losers at diﬀerent levels are also asked to join hands with the victors for a better society.
Ssentongo Muzafalu Zabaana
Member National Consultative Forum for Political Parties.
Secretary, NCF Media Committee
Secretary General, Green Partisan Party.