The presidential and parliamentary exercise that ended yesterday fell far short of expectations. It is unprecedented in Uganda’s elections since 1961. This was not an election in the true meaning of the word. Elections follow norms or standards with minor unintended irregularities here and there which can be excused. The whole electoral cycle was a fraud. The electoral commission chairman’s remarks that irregularities occur in young democracies should not be accepted. To facilitate debate, here are some illustrations of what went wrong throughout the electoral cycle.
1. The Electoral Commission was partial. Museveni refused to appoint an independent commission implying he planned to rig the election.
2. Inflated voter register was compiled by a partial electoral commission. In Museveni’s home area of Ntungamo district where his wife contested a parliamentary seat, there were more than 2 million registered voters. This is outrageous! Earlier warnings that the register in Ntungamo had been inflated were denied. In Kawempe a small residential area in Kampala City another outrageous voter figure of more than 1 million was recorded.
3. On elections day, many voters were not on voter register, others were in different polling stations, others had names but no photographs, yet others had photographs but no names against them and could not vote. These irregularities appear to have affected voters in the opposition camp. Many ended up not voting. So it could not have been an accident.
4. There was an absence of fairness in the sense of a level playing field. There was gerrymandering (new boundaries of districts to favor NRM).
5. Financial resources at the disposal of presidential candidates displayed such a wide gap that disproportionately favored the incumbent to the extent that it made presidential elections a joke. The additional 700 billion shillings at the disposal of Museveni in the final weeks of campaigning made all the difference. It is reported that money was dished out even when voting was in progress. This is against electoral regulations. Museveni had superior resources in money, personnel and the advantage of incumbency that fraudulently tilted the election in his favor. Coincidentally Uganda government has gone broke as reported by the Minister of Finance.
6. Use of media services was biased against some candidates.
7. Lack of security restricted campaigning by some presidential candidates.
8. Intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters was common.
9. Massive presence of military rather than police officers was intimidating and could have affected the results by discouraging opposition voters from voting in case trouble erupts while they are there.
10. Many ballot boxes were not sealed. Others arrived late with adverse implications.
11. Some agents from opposition parties had difficulties monitoring voting because supposedly they presented wrong accreditation letters.
12. Indelible ink was not used in many polling stations, implying voting more than once.
13. Voters were assaulted, arrested and detained by security officers as in Ntungamo district.
14. In some cases voter secrecy was violated.
15. International observers should have covered the entire electoral cycle. Most of them came to cover the polling day virtually leaving out what happened before February 18, 2011.
16. They are expected to be neutral and write an honest report whether or not the exercise was free and fair. They should avoid subjective conclusions based on vague formulations such as “given the prevailing circumstances”. This has been the general formulation since the 1980 elections. This time international and domestic observers should report whether or not the election cycle was free and fair. Nothing in between. Failure to do that will jeopardize their credibility.
17. The chairman of the electoral commission has a solemn duty to be faithful to the people of Uganda and announce real results. That way he will keep his dignity intact and set a precedent for his successors.
18. It has been suggested that the cheated presidential candidates must not go to the Supreme Court again because many Ugandans think they know how it will judge the case. Instead, peaceful methods including demonstrations throughout the country should be used to denounce the results and block formation of a new government. Uganda security forces should not intervene in peaceful demonstrations. The behavior of forces in Tunisia and Egypt should serve as a guide.
19. Museveni thinks Ugandans are cowards and can’t sustain a long demonstration. He believes that once a few bones have been broken the rest will run for cover and never return.
20. Are we really cowards?