March 11, 2011
Kibaale District Civil Society Organizations’ Network (KCSON) with support from CARE Uganda under the Rights Equity and Protected areas (REPA) Program carried out general elections observation for Kibaale District. Our focus was on Kibaale District dues to the fact that it is our operational area and based on previous historic ethnic violence that marred the 2006 and 2001 general elections more especially for the posts of District Chairperson and Members of Parliament for Buyaga and Bugangaizi Counties. Facts on those earlier elections indicate loss of lives and property coupled with conflicts amongst the indigenous Banyoro and immigrant persons. These had since made Kibaale an area where electoral violence was expected.
Government and Civil Society Organisations came up with a number of interventions to stop/ minimize the violence and the litmus test was the 2011 general elections.
It was against that background that KCSON together with her partner member organisations conducted civic education and at polling days observation was conducted to capture any incidences of irregularity and violence.
The KCSON observation team was composed of the following categories of people;
|First Trucker observers-community monitors (stationed at polling stations)||46|
|Regular observers (based at Sub County level)||11|
|Regular observers (based at district level)||04|
The observers were trained and an observation tools shared. The observation tools comprised of;
KCSON Observer team takes this opportunity today the 11th day of March to publish its preliminary findings on the conduct of the 2011 general elections at all levels but with a more focus on the Parliamentary, Local Councils V and III for Kibaale District. This is due to the fact that our observation was based in Kibaale District alone
Although the team did not observe the voter registration exercise, it has noted gross complaints expressed by voters on the credibility and accuracy of the voter register. Incidences of "missing" names, double registration, overlap of voters’ particulars and some voters not identifying or accessing their respective polling stations with ease were observed.
Voter turn up was considerably high more especially during the parliamentary/ presidential elections, although there was less turn up registered during the Local Council 5 elections.
The high turn up at presidential/ Parliamentary elections was however characterized by a good number of voters, many with voter cards who were turned away from polling stations because their particulars could not be found on the voters’ registrar. Some of the interviewed voters missing on the register claimed to have confirmed their names on the register during the display of the same before the elections. This raises a big question on how the register was handled to lead to denial of some people’s constitutional and human right of choosing leaders.
There were very long queues of voters observed at some polling stations as late as 2.00pm on Presidential/ Parliamentary election day. On one of the polling station- Karama PS in Matale Sub County, an estimated 150 voters were witnessed lining up at 2.15pm on 18th February.
Some of them claimed to have been on the voting quee from as early as 07.00am and that voting only started at about 09.00am due to late arrival of polling officials and election materials.
To make the matter worse, some people mostly pregnant women and those with babies were walking away from the polling station before casting their vote due to over waiting in the quees given their conditions.
It was also noted that the total number of voters at this particular station was too big (over 900 voters on the register) and covering a big area with some voters at the station walking over 5km distance.
Voter ferrying by agents of candidates using motorcycles commonly known as bodabodas was also observed and some of the people interviewed also conformed to this assertion. This runs the high risk of voter influence by such agents who ferry voters with an intention of winning sympathy from their victims.
A good number of polling officials did not seem to have adequate training or confidence to perform their responsibilities and as a result procedures were not properly followed. At some stations agents were observed interfering with the process in the guise of helping the polling Officials. At some other stations, some vigilant voters were directing officials on what to do, more especially during the opening and counting sessions. This runs a risk of misguidance which can adequately affect the process and therefore the outcome.
Although there were few cases of tribal/ ethnic characteristics both during campaigns and at polling, the scale was significantly at a lower level as opposed to the general elections of 2001 and 2006 in the District. However the trend seems to have changed to religious differences. This was mostly observed at Local Council V elections and campaigns. Prominent people and religious leaders came on board to sow seeds of religious discrimination. It’s even claimed that religious leaders were calling on their faithful not to vote for “pagans” by either side. This was because one of the candidates was a believer of the ‘local’ religion of the Faith of Unity founded by ‘Owobusobozi’ Bisaka of Muhorro Sub County Kibaale District.
The disappearance of tribal/ ethnic violence at elections can be attributed to the enormous efforts of Government, civil society organizations and religious leaders towards building a peace in the District after witnessing bloody and destructive earlier elections that were marred with tribal sentiments.
After 2006 elections, KCSON in particular, with support from Ireland Embassy embarked on a mobilization and sensitization of the people of Kibaale for a peaceful coexistence where tribal differences are put aside to pursue a common goal of development. Care Uganda also came on board in 2010 to support KCSON to among other things continue the peace programme for the District.
On the day of the elections, our teams reported a reasonably calm process in the majority of areas, but with some few localized incidents. Our teams reported that in most areas the voting process proceeded reasonably well. The main problems encountered related to the widespread late delivery of materials and late opening of many polling stations; inconsistent application of procedures by polling officials and instances of voters not finding their names on the list, the scale of which varied.
Prior to the election days, campaigns were conducted in a "fairly open and free environment, in which freedoms of expression, assembly and association were generally respected".
However it was noted in some constituencies there were high campaign spending in guise of “fulfilling pledges” mostly by the incumbents, buying booze and other kinds of drinks and in some cases offering the electorates physical items such as salt, soap and money as low as 200/= This raised a concern at what we describe as the "monetization" of the elections.
The distribution of money and gifts by candidates, a practice inconsistent with democratic principles, was widely observed more especially on the eve of the lection days and during campaigns.
There were also questions on media impartiality in covering campaign events of various candidates. Some candidates complained about the local media as it was said to be favoring candidates against others. Not falling exceptional, like in other parts of Bunyoro, the IPC presidential candidate did not get space on the local FM station here due to what was termed as lack of power supply- there was no electricity at the time Besigye was in Kibaale and that the generator to run the radio station had mechanical failures.
There were also incidences of violence and harassment, a case in point was the arrest of a Parliamentary candidate for Bugangaizi West- Mr Muhimbo Edward at the pick of the campaigns on accusations of corruption and embezzlement and only to be acquainted on the eve of the election day with no charges.
There were cases of involvement of civil servants in partisan politics. Civil servants were seen campaigning for candidates or even serving as agents on a number of occasions. This runs a risk of compromising the principle of impartiality of civil servants.
There were also claims of some vote rigging and ghost poling stations in a few areas such as Bwikara. Many of the losing candidates complained of vote rigging by their opponents. This calls for more work to be done to make the electoral process as transparent as possible to reduce such suspicions.
Consistence between the results declared (on declaration forms) at polling stations and those finally entered, tallied and announced by the returning officer. There were no cases of changing results or announcing different results from those tallied by different candidates;
Vigilance of Agents at polling stations was commended. Agents representing candidates at various polling stations were very awake following all the developments;
Existence of a wide range Observers. Basically in Kibaale we managed to see observers from European Union, Inter religious council of Uganda and Demo group among others. These increased the credibility of the elections;
There was also considerable speed of delivery of results from different polling stations to the District Returning Officer;
Deployment of polling constables and police at polling stations adequate enough to keep order at the stations without intimidation of the voters.
Civic education is one key component that will improve the quality of the elections to come. This does not need to wait for the campaign and/ or election periods to begin; it’s a continuous process and a responsibility for everyone. Politicians seeking elective positions have been taking advantage of the poorly informed electorate to try all means of wining including “buying the votes” or even intimidating the voters to their advantage. Once we build a civically competent population, we shall have addressed most of the shortcomings we suffered during these elections;
There is need for the Electoral Commission to conduct intensive training of its
Personnel on electoral process to enhance the capacity and competence of polling officials;
There is need to further improve the management and application of the voters register to minimize incidences of “missing” names, double registration and problems of some voters not identifying or accessing their respective polling stations on polling day;
While noting the need to address the shortcomings cited above, the team concludes that the 2011 elections have been conducted in conformity with minimum standards. The team commends and urges the people of Kibaale and Uganda in general to sustain the peace that characterized much of the 2011 elections;
Its our appeal that the shortcomings experienced during the elections are collectively handled so to increase credibility of the elections to come. We should not forget that elections are part and partial of any democratic society and they provide one major way through which the population exercises their right of choice of leaders.