UGANDA JOINT CHRISTIAN COUNCIL
25 February 2016
Preliminary Report on the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections of 2016
Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) observed the presidential and parliamentary elections that were held on 18th February, 2016 following accreditation by the Electoral Commission. In this Preliminary Report, we would like to share with you an overview of our findings and observations and recommendations dictated by the exigency of the prevailing situation. We are in the process of compiling a Final Report in which we intend to delve deeper into what happened. Once the report is compiled, we shall publish it for the consumption of all the stakeholders. This preliminary report is divided into four parts: (1) Goal and objectives of UJCC’s Election Observation Mission, (2) Methodology and scope of the observation exercise, (3) an Overview of the Findings and (4) our Observations and Recommendations.
2. Goal and Objectives
UJCC involvement in election observation was dictated by the desire to contribute towards building a better future for Ugandans rooted in the idea that the will of the people is the basis of the authority to govern. Our national constitution of 1995 provides that the will of the people on who shall govern them and how they shall be governed shall be expressed through regular, free and fair elections or through referenda. The elections of 2016 provided Ugandans with the opportunity to choose leaders who will govern them for he next five years after the expiration of the term of office of the current leaders in May, 2016.
3. Methodology and Scope of Observation
UJCC observed the nomination of presidential candidates which was conducted on 3rd and 4h November, 2015.UJCC also observed the campaigns to a limited extent and polling, counting and tallying of votes and declaration of results. We trained and deployed a total of 863 observers including about 696 poll watchers. They were equipped with guidelines and checklists to help them in discharging their duties. It is important to underscore the fact that an election is not just about voting, counting and tallying of votes. It is a long process which involves a multiplicity of activities including legislative reforms, the registration of voters, nomination of candidates, campaigns, polling, counting and tallying of votes, complaints handling and declaration of election results. However, the main focus of this report is on the challenges we identified during the campaign period, polling day as well as post‐polling period. We shall address all the aspects of the presidential and parliamentary elections in our Final Report. The following are our preliminary findings and recommendations.
The campaigns were conducted generally peacefully in all parts of the country. This was largely attributed to the harmonization of the candidates’ campaign programmes by the Electoral Commission. There were a few incidents of violence. In a press statement which we issued on 17th February, 2016 we condemned the excessive use of force by members of the security forces which resulted into the death of one person in Kampala and urged them to respect human rights in discharging their duties and to exercise restraint.
3.2 Polling, Counting and tallying of vote
Polling Day, 18th February, 2016 was an historic occasion. We commend the people of Uganda who turned up in large numbers across the country to exercise their right to vote. However, there were some challenges during polling, counting and tallying of votes prior to the declaration of results of the presidential elections by the Electoral Commission on Saturday, 20th February, 2016. The following is an overview of the challenges identified:
3.3 Delayed opening of polling stations
There was inordinate delay in opening of polling stations in some parts of Kampala, especially in Makindye East and Makindye West constituencies as a result of the failure of the Electoral Commission to deliver voting materials in time. The extent of the delay was troublesome. For example at St. Peter’s Nsambya Polling Station, voting started at 12.30pm. At Munyonyo Primary School N‐Z Polling Station in Makindye West Constituency, voting started at 1.00pm. Similar pattern of delayed opening of polling station were also witnessed at Tank Hill Primary School Polling Station and at St. Paul Primary School Nsambya where voting started at 1.30pm. At Kiwuliriza Primary School N‐Z in Makindye East Constituency, voting started at about 2.15pm. And, at Our Lady of Mt Carmel Catholic Church Polling Station in Makindye East Constituency, voting started at 3.00pm
3.4 People failing to find their names on the voters roll
Some people could not find their names on the voters roll. For example, in Rukungiri District our observers noted that at least 13 people in five polling stations could not vote because they were informed that their names were not on the voters roll. Similarly in Kanungu District, there were ten people in 3 polling stations who could not find their names on the voters roll and therefore they could not exercise their right to vote.
3.5 Irregularities During Polling
In some polling stations, election officials assisted voters with disabilities to vote. In Koboko District alone our observers reported 31 such incidents. At a polling station in Amolatar District, our observer reported that polling officials were directing elderly voters to vote for one of the presidential candidates. This sparked protests from the candidates’ agents.
3.6 Malfunctioning of the BBVS Machine
Our observer reported that in Amach Polling Station in Erute South Constituency, Lira District, the BBVS machine failed to identify 10 people even though their names were on the voters reoll. Likewise, in Tukum Polling Station in Dakabela Constituency, Soroti District, the BBVS machine indicated that a lady whose name and photograph were on the voters roll had already voted and yet she had not voted. A finger checked confirmed she had not voted but she was denied the right to vote.
3.7 Postponement of Voting
In Dokolo South Constituency, voting for Directly Elected Member of Parliament was postponed due to a mix‐up in the photos of two of the contestants. At Gaba Trading Gabudyeri Polling Station in Makindye East Constituency, all the four polling stations located in the area did not vote on 18th February, 2016. This was because voters became rowdy and they burnt some voting materials. Our observer noted that the polling materials were not only brought late but were also brought in bits. The observer noted that when the boxes were opened, the ballot papers for the Presidential candidates were missing. At St Denis Secondary Gaba Polling Station where there were seven (7) polling stations, voting was also postponed to 19 February, 2016 due to riots linked to delayed delivery of polling materials.
3.8 Delay in announcement of results by some returning officers
There was inordinate delay in releasing election results at some district tally centres. In at least two districts, namely Kasese and Alebtong, teargas was used to disperse stakeholders who had become angry and were demanding explanation for the delay.
3.9 Lack of transparency in parliamentary election results
In Gulu District, our observers noted that the returning officer declared the winners without announcing the results scored by each of the candidates who contested the parliamentary elections. In the case of one of the constituencies, the declaration was made against a background of alleged ballot stuffing, an allegation we could not verify.
3.10 Failure to account for votes from a large number polling stations
The presidential election results released by the Electoral Commission on Saturday excluded votes from several polling stations. In Jinja District with 233,848 registered voters in 399 polling stations, the Commission received from only 11 polling stations. In Kyenjojo District with 186,538 registered voters in 337 polling stations, the Commission received results from only 60 polling stations. In Kampala with 1,014,294 registered in 1,338 polling stations, the Commission declared results from only 1,176 polling stations. This begs the following questions: (1) Why were votes from the affected polling stations not tallied by the Electoral Commission? (2) Was there results’ transmission system failure in the affected district tally centres to the national tally centre in Namboole? (3) Was it a case of inefficiency and incompetence on the part of the returning officers?
3.11 Voter turnout
There was generally high voter turnout. However from the results published by the Electoral Commission, there was a great deal of disparity in the voter turnout in various districts. Districts which registered very high voter turnout include Buhweju (81.94%), Napak (78.81%), Kapchorwa ((79.92), (Mitooma (73.53%), Kween 77.66%) .Districts which registered relatively low voter turnout include Kampala (46.33%), Amuru (49.88%), Wakiso (50.67%), Nwoya (53.78%), Gulu (54.97%) and Isingiro (55.03%). What influenced the voter turnout? Was it due to inadequate voter education? Was it due to voter apathy, a feeling that voting is a waste of time? Was it the result of political mobilization by the local political leaders? This, in our view, would be an interesting subject of research.
3.12 High number of invalid votes in some areas
According to the report of the Electoral Commission, some districts registered a very high number of invalid votes. Virtually all the districts with unusually high number of invalid votes are from Northern Uganda. The districts concerned include Kaabong (12.63%), Maracha (10.59%), Adjumani (9.81%), Kotido (9.47%), Arua (9.43%), Moroto (8.87%), Kitgum (8.43), Nebbi (8.00%). In our view, the high level of invalid votes is largely attributed to inadequate civic education. But there is certainly more to it. We have noticed from the results of the presidential elections published by the Electoral Commission that in Otuke District, a total of 28,789 people voted for the presidential candidates and were no invalid votes. UJCC personnel observed elections in a few polling stations in Otuke and we have reservations regarding the authenticity of the figure about invalid votes published by the Commission. In our view, this would also be another interesting subject of research.
4. Observations and Recommendations
There were some positive aspects of the presidential and parliamentary elections. First, the exercise of nominating presidential candidates was conducted in a transparent manner by the Electoral Commission. Secondly, the introduction of the National Identity Card, the Biometric Voter Verification System (BBVS) and the Voter Location Slips (VLS) was a step in the right direction. The challenge which our observers noted was that some polling officials did not know how to operate the BBVS machine. In some cases, the machines failed to work properly. Thirdly, voting was conducted peacefully in many parts of the country, except in areas where people rioted due to delayed delivery of polling materials. Fourthly, in most of the polling stations across the country, voting materials were delivered early and voting also began early. However, there were also many shortcomings, as highlighted above.
The arrests and continued detention of one of the presidential candidates, Dr. Kiiza Besigye, at this critical period of the electoral exercise on security ground is a worrying development. We do acknowledge that security is an important factor in any election. However, article 221 of the Constitution of Uganda enjoins the security personnel to ‘‘observe respect human rights and freedoms in the performance of their functions’’.
UJCC notes with concern that Dr. Besigye has been arrested by the security forces about four times since16thFebruary,2016