Whenever general elections are held, a good number of people, especially the youth, find themselves in custody. Although some of them might have been rightly implicated, a good number are also innocent.
This scenario is common in several African countries.
Before, during and after elections, most young people get trapped in the excitement that is associated with politics. They attend a series of political rallies where they are fed on a lot of message, positive and negative, from various political actors-rendering them confused and intolerant.
Out of incitement, excitement, ignorance and sometimes unnecessary provocation, the youth tend to lose their cool, hence engaging in a series of wrong-doing. Consequently, the laws hastily catch up with them and get apprehended. Nevertheless, others are mere victims of circumstances. Because of the huge crowds at political rallies, law enforcers sometimes fail to identify the real perpetrators of crime.
Very few years ago, the National Consultative Forum for Political Parties -NCF, initiated and developed a code of conduct for political parties. This proposed code was then presented to Parliament for enactment.
After the legislators did their part, the bill was finally assented to by the President of Uganda and it is now a fully-fledged Act/Law.
The cardinal responsibility of the implementors of this Law who are the members of NCF, is to ensure that there is always adequate sensitization of all the election stake-holders, way before, during and after elections. The code is supposed to instill morals, discipline tolerance, calm and order with intent to sanitize our elections.
Implications of arrests
The implications are social, psychosocial, economic and political. From the psychological and economic angle, the victims themselves go through a lot of torture and gross human rights abuses in jails. Some of the prisoners are the ones that are supposed to be the bread-earners of their families. Thus , when they are incarcerated , the livelihoods of their families come to a standstill.
Access to food, health care services and education, among others, become hardly possible.
From the political and economic points of view, the image of Government before the local and international community gets tarnished. This negatively impacts some of the economic activities such as tourism and foreign investment.
The circumstances also render elections a feared venture by the citizens which hampers democracy and good governance.
Prerogative of mercy
Violence and lawlessness , during the election period are ignited by almost all stake holders -ruling party, opposition and independent supporters.
Regardless of the laws of the land, the Head of State needs to act empathetically but also exercise some mercy in order to champion peace and reconciliation, harmony and forgiveness. There is a great need to cause an end to the suffering of innocent families.
The National consultative forum strongly stands for tenets such as dialogue, unity and mutual co-existence, tolerance, peace, forgiveness, reconciliation and harmony, among others.
The President of Uganda who is the Fountain of honour is also empowered with the Prerogative of mercy. Our President is a considerate person, beyond the casual reference to him as ‘Granny’ or Jajja, in Luganda.
I therefore implore the Government to take the necessary measures by forgiving and releasing the apprehended victims. NCF should also ensure that all the available avenues are explored to sensitize the public about the code of conduct before , during and after elections in order to instill discipline and tolerance in all the stakeholders.