By Michael Aboneka
The talk about Electoral reforms goes way back since the 2001 general Elections. Several observers both domestic and international made several recommendations in a bid to improve our elections so that they are free and fair and a true reflection of the Peoples’ will.
There have been several processes in this country that have been geared towards reform in the electoral processes such as the Citizens Consultations on free and fair elections and the development of the Citizens’ Compact, the National Consultative Forum-which brings together all political parties also tabled reforms. Towards the 2016 elections, there was albeit no reform made apart despite the heavy investment by citizens in the above processes.
After the 2016 elections and in the Presidential Election Petition No.1 of 2016, the Supreme Court made several recommendations and gave the Attorney General two years in which he would acted on the same.
A group of young activists under their collation-the Game Changers followed this up with a petition to the Attorney General reminding him of the forth coming Supreme Court deadline. This coupled together with an application for contempt of Court against the Attorney General, forced the Attorney general to table reforms in compliance of the Supreme Court recommendations.
The reforms have been tabled before Parliament and they are now at the Committee stage. However, only a few and vigilant citizens are aware of these processes whereas the general population is naïve of what is happening and yet these reforms are to affect the general population.
The Parliamentary committee has issued a schedule of public consultations on the 5 Bills to start the week of August 26th 2019 in various parts of the Country and still a few individuals are aware of this and those who are, it is because of the work of some prominent Civil Society Organisations working on governance issues.
Uganda signed but has not yet ratified the African Charter on Democracy Elections and Good Governance(ACDEG) which commits member states of the African Union to adhere to principles of democracy, human rights, holding of free and fair elections and rejection of unconstitutional change of Government. Further, the principles of ACDEG encourage promotion of public participation, pluralism, respect of dissent in political engagements across the region.
Considering the above, it is imperative that the electoral process in Uganda is as informative and consultative as possible to promote pluralism and democracy and as such, all stakeholders and voters must be consulted on what nature of reforms should be considered to have genuine free and fair elections.
Public Consultation is not a mere tick-off-a box exercise-it goes deeper than this. All views must be respected however dissenting they may be and a consensus should be developed. There are quite several processes happening to ensure that the elections are free and fair and it not enough for the citizens to be consulted but their views should first be respected and adopted! For long as citizens, we have been participated by our leaders who have chosen to decide for us even without consulting us. We need to ensure that the Public is always consulted especially on the question of how to be governed-the electoral reform processes if we are to achieve much as a country.
The issues of elections seem to be a sensitive matter yet it should not-it is a mere democratic practice which our Constitution provides for every 5 years. Article 1 of our Constitution provides that Power belongs to the people and they shall exercise this power by choosing the leaders they desire and on how to be governed.
The electoral reform process forms part of the how to be governed. It is therefore important that all stakeholders are engaged in this process at all stages to ensure we have a credible election and beyond the 5 bills tabled by the Attorney general, there are other electoral reforms that are crucial and will promote fairness in the elections and we therefore beseech Parliament to pay attention to other reforms proposed for the betterment of our Country.
Let us all work together to ensure we have free, fair and credible elections for the benefit of our democracy and our posterity and that all views must matter across the youth, women, persons with disabilities, the elderly, religions, cultures among others. The outcome of any election is as good as its process!
The author is a coordinator: African Governance Architecture-Uganda