By PATRICK JARAMOGI
KAMPALA, Uganda|SHIFTMEDIA| With just two weeks to polling day, many voters are yet to get information regarding the polling process, new reports have revealed.
At least 17 million Ugandans head for polls on January 14, 2021, though efforts to sensitise the masses on voter education remains scanty.
The Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) has just completed a baseline assessment of voter education ahead of the 2021 Election in the Eastern Region in the districts of Jinja, Iganga, Kamuli, Bugembe, Idudi, Namutumba, Tirinyi, Kadama, Budaka, Mbale and Soroti and established that there is hardly any voter information reaching the voters.
Charity Ahimbisimbwe, the Executive Director Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) said the findings in these regions indicated that some voters were uncertain about the voting dates for the various political offices.
“When we asked them how many presidential candidates were contesting for the 2021 general elections, majority said two, others said three, yet we all know there are 11 presidential candidates,” said Ahimbisibwe.
Findings according to Ahimbisibwe show the voters in rural areas know only NRM candidate and incumbent Yoweri Museveni, National Unity Platform (NUP) party flag bearer Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate Patrick Amurait Oboi.
Ahimbisibwe who was presiding at the launch of the Mulembe Gwa Digito Campaign at Makerere University on Wednesday said some sections of the electorate particularly the illiterate in Mayuge, Iganga, Idudi and Budaka, district only knew of four of the 11 presidential candidates. “In all the places visited the citizens did not know about the special interest Group elections and the dates on which the MPS for Elders, Youth, workers, Army will be elected,” she said.
She said in all the areas covered the voters did not even know when the election of councillors would take place.
“Most of the voters in the areas assessed do not understand the electoral college system and how it is set up,” said Ahimbisibwe.
She said that due to insufficient voter education issues of many invalid votes are expected to rise in the 2021 elections. “We have noticed a trend of increased invalid votes right from 2011 general elections, 2016 and we expect more in 2021,” she said.
Electoral colleges are the people who are selected to elect a candidate to a particular office. Often these represent different organisations, political parties, or entities. Each is represented by a particular number of electors or votes weighted by the Electoral Commission.
The Constitution in articles 1 and 59 guarantees rights for a voter to attain information and participate in electoral processes. This right to access information is supposed to be guaranteed by the Electoral Commission in Article 61, which mandates the EC to educate voters and come up with a voter’s programme that ensures dissemination of information.
Having been accredited to carry out voter education, CCEDU in collaboration with its partner NICE-U, supported by UN-WOMEN has decided to popularise its campaign Mulembe Gwa Digital, Beera Mu Class in the three universities, Makerere, Uganda Christian University Mukono and Gulu University plus their surrounding communities.
“CCEDU in partnership with the Electoral Commission and UN Women through this voter mobilisation campaign aim to advocate for and promote integrity, transparency and increase civic duty of Ugandans in electoral processes,” said Ahimbisibwe at the event held at Makerere University Guest House in Kampala.
CCEDU’s vision is a Uganda in which the principles and practices of electoral democracy are respected and upheld.
Guided by the principles of transparency; accountability of electoral systems; respect for human and civic rights; tolerance; gender equity and equal opportunity; non-partisan citizen participation.
She said CCEDU will continue to put out voter education messages on radio, through the phones, give out fliers in communities and educate the voter on how to participate in the election.