By Charity Kalebbo Ahimbisibwe
KAMPALA. Before the 2016 Uganda elections, examples of Ugandans who did not show up to update their names on the national voter’s register abound. When the Electoral Commission announced the National display exercise people took it lightly arguing that they had voted in the previous elections and so their names were on the voter’s register. When the Election Day finally came in February 2016, a number of them were shocked to find their names missing on the voter’s register. Their names were missing because a new voter’s register had been generated and produced by the Electoral Commission as mandated by law.
During the 2016 elections, many Ugandans also found their names missing from the National Voter’s register because they did not know that the information they had given during the registration for the National ID was the very information that the Electoral Commission was going to use to determine their polling stations. As such some people did not vote because their names on the National Voter’s register were posted to polling stations that were far from where they lived. This was a shortfall on the side of the voter because it is they that gave the information.
Another issue was that some names were wrongly spelt during the national ID registration exercise, so when it came to the time for the National Voter’s update exercise, the electoral officials regarded those who wanted to change their names as cases of impersonation and deleted them from the national voter’s register. CCEDU has specific examples of where these incidents happened. This category of voters’ were also disenfranchised or denied their right to vote because of misspelt names.
Another issue around the National register in the 2016 Election was, some candidates who stood for elections used their private radio stations to discourage voter’s from participating in the national ID registration process and later the National voter’s update programme. Having listened in to the stations, some voters ignored these key Government processes and subsequently failed to participate in the 2016 electoral process.
Another issue that was encountered by voters’ in the 2016 General Elections concerning the National Voter’s Register was the allegation that the Electoral Commission used NRM cadres in some areas as EC officials to conduct the voter update and display exercise. There were claims that these NRM cadres were recommended for the EC jobs by DISO’s and GISOs and at times the RDC. However, as the EC plans activities around the Voter update exercise, CCEDU, implores the Electoral Commission to audit the allegations and if found to be true use impartial citizens as Electoral officers so that Ugandans of all political parties will look at them as objective and, therefore, feel motivated to participate in the National Voters’ update exercise.
These and many others are some of the underlying issues that pushed the Citizen’s Coalition For Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) to write an open Letter to the President highlighting the need to interrogate the issues surrounding a clean voter’s register ahead of the 2021 elections.
In an open letter to the President CCEDU states that: many people are enthusiastic about registering for the national ID for the sake of getting one, but the letter highlights the question of deaths. Who takes stock of the deaths? This question still begs an answer from the authorities. And, therefore, CCEDU in its Open Letter to the President, states it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of ghost voters on the national voter’s register. Such uncertainty begs for thorough interrogation of the issue and locating an amicable solution in the lifetime of the Electoral Commission Roadmap.
CCEDU is committed to supporting a credible processes intended to genuinely clean the national voters register and help create an enabling environment for citizen participation in our democracy and in a quest to find amicable solutions to the enormous issues surrounding the National Voter’s register, CCEDU implores the Government and all stakeholders to remain committed to collaborate with the wanainchi, especially with regard to publicizing on-going citizen registration exercises, alongside articulating the importance of the registration of deaths and of persons who have left the country or denounced Ugandan citizenship. Citizen vigilance from village to national level will be central in framing a clean and credible national voters register ahead of the 2021 elections.
Charity Kalebbo Ahimbisibwe
Senior Communications and Advocacy Manager
Citizens’ Coalition For Electoral Democracy in Uganda