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Lango leaders call for electoral reforms and non-involvement of the army during polling 

(Last Updated On: 24 June 2023)

Lira, June 24, 2023: During the recent stakeholders’ consultation on electoral and constitutional reforms held in Lira City, leaders from Lango sub-region submitted different views. 

The meeting, convened by Lango Civil Society Network (LACSON), was aimed at strengthening citizen engagement and participation in elections and the need to strengthen the electoral systems which will, in turn, ensure free and fair elections.

Once elections are free and fair, the meeting agreed that the hallmark of well-functioning democracy and the foundation for a legitimate and stable government is achieved.

TND News Lira City-based Correspondent, Nancy Atim reports that the consultation discussed the independence of the electoral commission (EC), its budgeting and funding process, voter and civic education; the role of security agencies during elections, party registration and financing.

Electoral dispute management, electoral boundary demarcation and electoral management institution strengthening were as well key areas of concern among the participants. They have called for a review in light of election dynamics.

In the recent past, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Parliament, Judiciary, Political groups, and Religious groups have made numerous attempts to advance the process and strengthen the credibility of elections in the country. Amid all these, there are still no tangible outcomes seen by the majority of the citizens.

Based on Article 1 of the 1996 Constitution, LACSON and Uganda National NGO Forum have justified their engagements with the populace and have now conducted a total of 36 consultative meetings across five districts and one City in the Lango sub-region. They have had engagements in Lira, Dokolo, Albetong and Kole districts including Lira City.

During monthly consultative engagements with the community of Dokolo, Lira, and Alebtong districts through Topoowa and Ekyoota initiatives, a number of issues were raised by the locals who appeal for constitutional amendments and electoral reforms if Uganda is to have a peaceful electoral process.

In a report released by Lango Civil Society Network from a survey conducted in Lira, Alebtong and Dokolo districts under the Strengthening Citizens Engagement in Elections project (SCENE), most people called for reforms in the reinstatement of term and age limits, reduction in the size of parliament, creation of an independent electoral commission, observing the educational qualification levels of aspirants.

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James Acar, Focal Person of SCENE. All photos by Nancy Atim.

Other demands are a review of nomination fees for aspirants, strengthening civic and voter education, involvement of the army during polling should stop, review of the days for presidential, parliamentary and local council elections; review of voter details, verification and updating period, putting photos of all aspirants on the ballot paper, putting a limit in the creation of new administrative, units among others.

 What leaders say

Peter Obong Acuda, the speaker of Apac district council in his submissions said the involvement of the army in the electoral process is not necessary. Obong said the presence of the army at the polling stations intimidates voters contributing to the low voter turn-up.

“The government should rather remove the army since it’s mandated to provide security to the country in case of any foreign attacks and retain the police to maintain law and order during the polling days,” Acuda added.

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Regarding the size of Parliament, Acuda has called for a reduction in the number of legislatures in the August House. This, he said, the big number of Parliamentarians in Parliament is losing meaning thus swindling taxpayers’ money and therefore poor service delivery.

“…….we only has one active Member of Parliament and that is Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda while the rest are just bench warmers,” Acuda told the meeting.

Just like Acuda, Col. Rtd  Tonny Otoa said violence during elections is due to actions of the security forces.

Otoa noted that people go to the polls to vote for transformation but this is however denied by the military regime which monitors every institution in the country including the electoral commission (EC).

The best institution to appoint the chairperson of the electoral commission is the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), said Otoa. Even as he said so, Otoa added the JSC in Uganda is not independent.

“The structure of the electoral commission should have representatives from all sections including culture, youths, women, persons with disabilities, and members of parliament, among others. Civic education should equally be left to the cultural leaders since they reach the grass root people without any form of segregation,” the former army officer stated.

Regarding the amendments of term limits, Otoa called for a two-year term limit, stating it will bring in the new government with new policies.

Prime Minister of Tekwaro Lango, another cultural institution rivalling with Lango Cultural Foundation, George Ojwang Opota, in his view on the size of Parliament, said two minutes given to each legislature is not enough for all the 529 MPs to give a view on policy making.

He cited Milton Obote’s government which had about 65 MPs but wholesomely came up with good policies which enhanced service delivery. Opota said the Obote government is “not for the case of the current Parliament”.

Opota asked for the introduction of regional governments that can allow for proper discussions on issues before they are forwarded to Parliament.

On corruption cases among ministers, the cultural leader Opota said cabinet ministers should directly be elected to reduce corruption tendencies and improve their effectiveness.

Amolatar district LC5 councillor Nam Eve Tyan said politicians should be allowed to serve for three terms consecutively to give them ample time to implement different projects.

Apac district council speaker, Obong Acuda said there was no need for special interest groups’ representation in Parliament since the laws formulated by Parliament benefit everyone.

While other stakeholders among them youth, PWDs; elderly and women, the chairperson of Lira district disability council Edward Mandu said there is a need to maintain youth and PWDs representatives in Parliament, saying the army and workers’ MPs positions should be scrapped.

Mandu said the 1995 Constitution states that persons with disabilities should be represented fully and this, according to him, was after the immense suffering of the PWDs.

Kenneth Owa Omara, Speaker of Alebtong district council said these special interest groups help in “streaming leadership skill to the youth” who are now involved in serious politics.

“Removing the special interest groups from Parliament would be a disservice,” Omara added.

Speaker Owa also said the 10-day deadline for hearing election petitions is not enough, thus calling for its reform to about two months period. He said the extension will help the candidate in mobilizing witnesses, finance and evidence to use in the legal process.

Patrick Okwir, speaker of Lira City council equally supported Owa’s proposal of two months to hear electoral petitions, saying that the biggest challenge is to accord limited time yet court works on evidence.

Executive director of Lango Civil Society Network (LCSN), Dickens Ogwal said the proposals will be tabled before Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Norbert Mao for further discussions before it is forwarded to Parliament for approval.

In recent research conducted in partnership with National Democratic Institute and Lango Civil Society Network, it indicates that 74 per cent of the population in the sub-region strongly believed that the 2021 general elections were violent.

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