By David Lumu
On March 16, Supreme Mufti Sheik Zubair Kayongo asked internal affairs minister Gen. Aronda Nyakairima during a meeting at Kibuli mosque why the security and information systems project was interfering with the work of the Electoral Commission.
Aronda softly replied: “By February 25, 2015, we would give a copy of our data to the Electoral Commission so that they can do their work.”
Emphasizing that the security and information system project team would not interfere with the work of the Electoral Commission (EC), the minister reasoned that government is registering Ugandans of 16 years because by 2016 they would eligible to vote.
This, he said, would ease the work of the EC because according to figures from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), out of the estimated 36.6 million Ugandan population, 18 million are 16 years and above.
The latter statistic means that half of the country’s population will be eligible to vote by 2016.
“We shall only resume the ID registration exercise [for Ugandans below 16 years] after the 2016 general elections,” Aronda told sheiks at Kibuli mosque.
ID PROJECT: vehicles carrying material to be used for the mass enrolment exercise parked at Kololo airstrip. PHOTO/Richard Sanya
Now, a month since the ID registration exercise started, the opposition is still questioning the relationship between the national ID and the voters’ register. The opposition argues that “under the law, only the Electoral Commission is mandated to conduct an independent process of compiling the register of voters”.
“Display of data that will be extracted by the EC cannot cure the serious flaws arising from [the] National ID process,” UPC president Olara Otunnu recently said in a statement he read on behalf of opposition and civil society activists.
Among the ID registration flaws so far is the slow data collection and limited supply of registration equipment.
But the Permanent Secretary in them ministry of internal affairs, Steven Kagoda, says that government would this coming week dispatch more registration equipment to ease the process, especially in the remote areas.
The resolve by government, according to Pamela Ankunda, the spokesperson of the same ministry, is to issue an identity card to the 18 million Ugandans so that they use it as a voting card.
“It would be used as a voting card. If you don’t have the ID card, you will not vote in 2016 and you will not also stand for any elective office in the country,” she said.
‘Foreigners registering as Ugandans’
Analysts are now saying that since the data government is gathering would be used to determine the right to vote or stand for elective positions in 2016, a tangible policy and legal framework must be drafted by authorities urgently.
Some of the locals waiting in a line during the mass enrolment exercise for the National ID card at Naguru 2 Parish , Nakawa Division. PHOTO/Abu Mwesigwa
The internal affairs ministry says government is Ugandans of 16 years because by 2016 they would eligible to vote. PHOTO/Nicholas Oneal
Prof. William Muhumuza of Makerere Department of Political Science and Public Administration argues that the absence of the registration policy and legal framework would injure the efficacy of the ID card as a voting tool in 2016.
“Having the ID as a requirement for 2016 is okay. But if they don’t do it well we may have many foreigners registered as Ugandans,” he says.
“Having so many foreigners registered as Ugandans would have an impact on the 2016 polls. If they can streamline the registration process now, it would be a good venture.”
The Uganda Citizenship and Immigration Control Act (2009) provides for the compulsory registration of all Ugandans.
Internal affairs ministry’s Pamela Ankunda says that at the ongoing exercise, the citizen’s verification committees (LC1, village intelligence officers, an elder, parish chiefs and government personnel) determine who a citizen is.
The opposition argues that without an independent body to execute this oversight and determination of who is a citizen and who is not, you cannot avoid the enrollment of non-Ugandans, especially in “zones straddling our international borders.”
“This will undermine and make nonsense of the very purpose of this long overdue exercise,” UPC’s Otunnu said.
EC spokesperson, Jotham Taremwa told New Vision that although there is no legal requirement for Ugandans seeking elective positions to present their IDs, the ongoing data collection would ease the work of the electoral body and add value to the 2016 general election preparations.
“To stand for any elective position in this country you must be a Ugandan,” he reiterated.
“However, there is no legal framework for presenting an ID if one wants to stand for any elective position. What the ID would do is to ease the work of EC. It will help us a great deal.”
This is the point Prof. Sabiti Makara of Makerere University Department of Political Science and Public Administration emphasizes when he says that the opposition has always campaigned for the release of voters’ cards and that they should embrace the ID exercise because it would provide a card similar to the voters’ card that they badly wanted.