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Women activists task electoral commission on voter education

By Francis Emorut

Added 29th August 2020 03:55 PM

“There is an information vacuum. For example, people are not aware the elections for the elderly are taking place. We are concerned that the revised election road map has not been widely publicised.”

Women activists task electoral commission on voter education

Miria Matembe listens to Prudence Atukwatse during the National consultative meeting at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala recently. Photo by Francis Emorut

“There is an information vacuum. For example, people are not aware the elections for the elderly are taking place. We are concerned that the revised election road map has not been widely publicised.”

ELECTION WATCH | EC

As the 2021 general elections draw nearer, women activists have expressed concern at the Electoral Commission's lack of voter education.

"There is lack of awareness about the revised election road map for the elections that was issued by the Electoral Commission (EC) and we are worried that many Ugandans are going to be disenfranchised, especially women," Prudence Atukwatse, the executive director of Centre for Women in Democracy (CEWIGO), said.

"If not addressed, it is going to impact negatively on the general outcome of the elections," Atukwatse added.

She made the remarks during the national consultative meeting on strategies for strengthening women's leadership in Uganda at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala recently.

"There is an information vacuum. For example, people are not aware the elections for the elderly are taking place. We are concerned that the revised election road map has not been widely publicised," Atukwatse pointed out.

Dr Miria Matembe, the chairperson of Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), criticised the electoral body for not reining in the Police who have frustrated the Opposition's consultative meetings.

Matembe pointed out that while Opposition are harassed by security agencies, National Resistance Movement (NRM) leaders and their supporters are left to conduct consultative meetings without disruption.

She accused the Police of selective application of the law.

"If the EC does not take a deliberate action, the situation will remain the same," Matembe said.

What are scientific elections?

The women activists also tasked the EC to explain the meaning of scientific election.

"What is this thing called scientific elections?" Tezira Jamwa, the NRM women league's leader for eastern region, asked.

Jamwa observed that nowhere in the world has scientific elections being held, but Uganda is fronting the idea which, according to her, is likely to disenfranchise many voters.

"We want the EC to explain what a scientific election is so that women participate effectively,'' Faridah Kyomuhangi, a human rights lawyer, said.

Kyomuhangi, who was presenting a paper titled "Promoting meaningful women's participation in ‘scientific electoral processes in Uganda", said voters would be disadvantaged since they are supposed to follow the presidential and parliamentary aspirants on social media, which requires use of the Internet.

She appealed to the Government to do away with the OTT tax to enable citizens access data cheaply.

EC responds

In response, Paul Bukenya, the EC spokesperson, told the participants that they were in the process of vetting 31 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that want to carry out voter education.

He said the criteria involved security vetting, adding that they should be non-partisan and must be registered with the National NGO Bureau.

On Police impartiality, Bukenya told the audience that the agency engaged top Police officers and reached a consensus that presidential aspirants should be allowed to conduct consultations provided that they follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

He cautioned the Police against blocking Opposition meetings, saying the electoral process will be undermined and the image of the EC dented.

Regarding scientific elections, Bukenya denied that the EC was organising scientific elections, but general elections since the former is not on the statute books.

The EC has been dragged to court over organising scientific elections and the case is still pending.

Bukenya explained that elections will be held under the hybrid system where both media channels and consultative meetings, with limited human interactions according to SOPs, will be used.


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