Background KRC in partnership with Rwenzori Forum for Peace and Justice (RFPJ) with support from DGF is implementing a project aimed at strengthening conflict prevention and transformation mechanisms in Rwenzori region. The project targets to benefit 500,000 people both directly and indirectly from five cultural institutions and other peace actors in five districts of Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, Kabarole, Kyenjojo and Kasese. The project uses a community based approach of Community Based Peace Actors spread evenly in their respective districts. These are charged with monitoring and reporting emerging conflicts through an on-line web based platform that is centrally managed by KRC. These efforts are also buttressed by the KRC initiative of voter education, which is also supported by DGF. In preparation for the 2016 general elections, KRC applied and was the only organization accredited by the Electoral Commission in the Rwenzori region to conduct voter education exercises. From July 2015, with financial support from DGF, KRC spearheaded the processes of voter education directly in 21 sub-counties through community meetings, rallies, debates and also through radio talk shows. It also used printed voter education materials to disseminate voter education in the entire 7 Districts of the Rwenzori Region. In light of these two projects, KRC participated in the monitoring process of the presidential and parliamentary elections that were conducted on Thursday 18th February 2016 across the country. Methodology The methodology applied to generate findings contained herein was through the Kangabaije online platform at KRC with over 250 reporters/subscribers drawn from all over the region. Direct calls were made by Community Based Peace Actors and over 2000 change agents evenly distributed in the region, these calls followed the blockage and screening of the online system and other social media platforms by Uganda Communication Commission. The data is further backed up by more related platforms within the region. This report basically focuses on the violence that erupted through the electioneering period and some of the processes that went on including; voter turn up, voting time, materials, casting of votes, use of the Biometric Voter Verification Machines (BVVM), the voting process, counting and the aftermath situation. The calls that were made were equally backed up with direct observation at polling and tally centres by staff and reporters. Over 23 sub counties sampled from the 7 districts in the region and 2 municipal councils were covered by the exercise. General impression Reports from community based reporters and the online platform indicate that the elections were generally peaceful across the region. There was also noticeable overwhelming voter turn up, both in urban and peri-urban areas. Time for voting Time for voting was generally observed by the voters and in most polling stations voters were able to turn up as early as 06:00am save for some places which received voting materials late. Some of these included; Kigoyera Catholic Church Polling Station in Kyarusozi S/C voting started at 09:50am and Kyamutasa polling station in Nyantungo Kyenjojo District where voting started 2 hours and 30 minutes late. While in Kikyendo polling station in Kakabara, Kyegegwa, voting started at 09:40am. The reason given by the polling officials was late delivery of materials to the sub county, as there was only one vehicle delivering materials. Agents All agents of different candidates from various political parties who presented relevant documents to the polling officials were accorded full recognition and right to observe and verify the electoral process. Presence of Security There was presence of fully recognized security personnel at every polling station. These personnel were not armed but were in police uniform with batons. They were referred to as election constables. Biometric Voter Verification Machines (BVVK). All polling centres were availed with BVVK. The very first 10-15 voters who used the machines complained about the slowness of the process but as time went on both the voters and the polling officials got used to applying the use of the machine rightly and the process went on smoothly. By midday the long queues had started reducing drastically. “These computers of yours will make us stand here for the whole day, if you were using our registers as it has always been I would have left this place…” remarked an old man at Kathembo Primary School deep in Kasese district. Regrettably and sadly In Kinyamaseke, Kasese District an old Man Mzee KASUKUTU Aaron 70 years, collapsed after receiving a ballot paper on the first table for the presidential candidates. He had been on the line for over 3 hours under terrible sunshine. Kasukutu fainted, fell dawn and was rushed to Hospital but died before he was delivered to the health unit. Some polling stations in Kabarole like Busaiga and Karangura, reported their machines to having been faulty thus delaying the process. However the districts were availed with reserve machines which were used in cases of faulty ones. During the casting of the votes Calmness was observed across the region, voters were enthusiastic and able to persistently withstand the heavy sunshine with calmness till they cast their votes and went of the polling stations. For some it was a time to keep vigil and watch the entire voting process. It is reported that some voters stayed at the polling stations till the time for counting the votes saying they were “protecting their votes” The very first reporter from Kayanzi fishing village Kasese Mr. NASUR Banganalya indicated that the voting process in his parish was very calm as reported on the online platform. . Reports from Kyegegwa district indicated that the Woman MP was not voted because the ballot paper contained two contestants both having the same symbol, yet one of them was supposed to be the NRM Flag Bearer and the other independent. The head of the electoral commission together with the District Police Commander therefore cancelled the election till further clarification by EC-Kampala. While in Kamwenge there was mis-delivery of polling materials of one station to the other, this was noticed in Kitagwenda and Kibaale counties. Immediate remedy was done by the electoral commission in the district. Closure of the voting process Reports across indicated that most polling stations closed at exactly 04:00pm. Even where materials arrived a little late the closing time was observed. Calmness was still observed at this very moment of closure. For stations which still had queues police constables stood after the very last person (s) on the line to ensure nobody else joins the lines. Vote counting The vote counting process in most areas started at 04:00pm amidst calm voters who gathered at the respective polling stations to witness the counting. Signing of declaration forms Reports from reporters indicate that agents of various candidates and EC staff in the various polling stations signed declaration forms without any form of tension all over. This signing indicated a mutual agreement on the outcomes of the election at the respective polling stations. Transportation of results Materials were transported to Sub Counties by EC officials and escorted by Police Constables. At this point the role of the voter seemed to end and they stayed waiting for the official declaration of results. Closure of Social Media and Mobile Money There were general complains from elite voters on why the social media platforms especially whatsapp, facebook and twitter had been temporarily shut down by the UCC. These complaints were majorly from those who can ably use these platforms. The situation was worsened by closing of the mobile money services which affected even a very local person. The voters did not see a linkage between the electoral process and the mobile money. The KRC online based Kanga Baije platform did not survive this clandestine fracas; internet went completely off and all political messages faced screening by the Uganda Communications Commission. This greatly affected the number of responses incoming and outgoing. Cases of Electoral Violence As opposed to the peaceful and calm elections across the region, Kasese districts turned bloody in the aftermaths of the polling day. The Kasese conundrum On Friday afternoon a mammoth crowd of voters had gathered at the Tally centre in Kasese waiting in awe to get the results being declared by the EC, Reports indicate that as they were eagerly waiting, Police Officers and a polling official from Nyakasoja polling station came with two Ballot Boxes to the tally centre. The Polling Official had told the Police that he had mistakenly sealed copies of declaration forms in the Ballot boxes. He therefore requested that the boxes be opened and he gets the forms. But the crowd with all the anxiety and suspicions of rigging stormed the tally centre. Police quickly rushed in and started shooting live Bullets in the air and tear gas to disperse the crowds. As the situation got tenser, UPDF soldiers were called in to give support to Police. In the ensuing scuffle and the sporadic shooting, a straying Bullet killed a 16 year old boy called KULE ABRAHAM who was later buried on Sunday 21st Feb 2016. Above: Angry residents at the tally Centre in Kasese on Friday The tension went on through the night under heavy security deployment comprising, the UPDF. A few party representatives were allowed to access the tallying room. After a long period of advent characterized by heavy anxiety, shouting, throwing of stones and wearing of grass by the voters, results of all Members of Parliament from all the five constituencies were declared at 02:00am. Results of the woman Member of Parliament were declared on Saturday at 3pm equally under tight security and pressure mounted on the EC officials from the angry community. Police in Kasese regretted the loss/death of the young boy and promised to give the necessary support to the deceased family. The other two survivors who were injured were rushed to Kilembe Mines Hospital. All in all the exercise was generally peaceful in the whole region and KRC mourns with the families of Late Mzee KASUKUTU Aaron and KULE ABRAHAM. Conclusion KRC commends the efforts of the electoral commission for integrating high level technology into the voting process and equally at tallying and analysis of results. This puts Uganda at a faster growing stage in as far as technological transformation is concerned. The use of the voter verification machines created a level of confidence into the voters and reduced on a number of questions especially pertaining multiple voting which is one way of election rigging. Despite the peaceful elections in the region, we strongly condemn the fracas that loomed Kasese district for over three days and two nights. The electoral commission needs to be more enthusiastic and remain in a position of making independent decisions. All in all we commend the work of the commission and the ability of all the People of Rwenzori to exercise their civic rights. Recommendations Given the analysis above KRC presents the following recommendations to better the forthcoming electoral activities · Government through the National Reconciliation Committee should organize national and sub national reconciliation dialogues targeting successful and unsuccessful candidates. This will help to reduce on chances of violence that is always anticipated every after an election. · Government needs to consider and uphold certain provisions of the law. The Act to Access to Information 2002 clearly puts a Ugandan to access public information; accessing information on the general electoral process was completely halted. This therefore sends a signal of anticipated faulting of results, the electoral commission should therefore build confidence in itself and in the electorate as well; this will in the long run enhances ownership of outcomes of the polls. We recommended that the announcing of results at the national tallying centre should begin from the local polling stations, followed by district and then national level in order to avoid confusion and suspicions of foul play Heavy security presence should be limited to areas known as black sports. Otherwise it casts a tense mood at polling stations when there is heavy security presence There should be timely delivery of voting materials to enable early voting ·The Electoral commission should increase on voter education since the number of invalid votes surpassed the votes polled by six of the 8 candidates combined1 · Those aggrieved with the out-come of the elections should use civil and legal means to seek redress –as opposed to the calls for violence · The government should also desist from using high-handed means to quash the protests by the opposition-the amount of provocation notwithstanding

Title: Uganda Decides 2016, a focus on Rwenzori region

Author: KRC

Category: KRC Newsletter

Publish Date: 2016-02-12

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