The Uganda Electoral Commission (EC) is currently implementing a series of events that form part of what they have referred to as the 2019/2021 General Elections Roadmap; a comprehensive document that was released in December 2018, showing the various activities that will be undertaken to ensure a successful 2021 general election.
The activities in the roadmap are spread over a 17 months period (August 2019 to February 2021) and highlight a timeline of activities that involve a range of stakeholders.
What is surprising, however, is the fact that many stakeholders are requesting an extension for one of the most important activities to do with the verification of the National Voters Register (NVR).
This activity took place from October 14 to 28 and was carried out during LC1 meetings. Residents were being called upon to verify their particulars on the national voters' register, identification of persons with disabilities (PWDs) and to scrutinise the voters’ register of their villages to identify deceased persons and those who left the area. This is a very important process in ensuring a clean voters register.
Three issues, however, stand out; Some Opposition leaders are raising complaints about the duration of the verification process, which makes one wonder whether their opinions were ever considered by the EC or whether they were ever invited to the regional stakeholder workshops that drafted the roadmap. This issue should have been raised then.
Many voters live in the city but vote in their villages, a situation that makes it almost impossible for voters registered in rural areas residents in the cities to participate, given the short period within which it was carried out. Some voters may get their detail deleted in error.
Many voters live in rented premises and have their names still registered at their old premises, which might be a distance away. These, too, may not be able to verify the information on the register.
The way forward — a realistic communication planning process
The Electoral Commission should be commended for their efforts at early planning as shown by the existence of the roadmap, but the emphasis is still required on how this information is communicated to the general public, for everyone to understand what is going on.
This process is called the communication planning process. The roadmap needs to be popularised in order for it to be of interest to eligible Ugandans and well appreciated in preparing for the 2021 general election.
The following aspects need to be scrutinised; Who are the different audiences being targeted with this information/activity? What are the appropriate and most effective communication tools to reach out to them? Once these two questions have been answered, a draft roadmap can now be shared with the respective groups and feedback collected.
Identifying the different audiences
Ugandans can be classified into a vast category of individuals, with each group having their own norms and cultures. The Electoral Commission needs to recognise this fact and reach out to the different audiences in their comfort zones, to ensure popularisation of the roadmap is carried out before the general election in 2021.
Selection of appropriate communication tools for the different audiences
A decision about what the most effective communication tool could be used to popularise the roadmap taking the different target audiences into consideration. Some common communication tools include social media, radio, television, posters, loudspeakers, direct emails, drama, skits, public advocacy, public relations, and community mobilisation.
Monitoring and evaluation for effectiveness
The commission should be able to monitor this campaign for effectiveness among randomly selected stakeholders and make changes wherever they need to. The Constitution of Uganda mandates the Electoral Commission to carry out regular national electoral activities and, in the commission’s own words, they want to ensure credibility, efficiency, and effectiveness of their activities, a timely procurement of materials and equipment, professionalism and a favourable working environment, delivery of free, fair and transparent elections.
The writer is a marketing professional