How can Uganda see free and fair elections in 2011?

President Museveni shocked Ugandans by renewing the term of the Electoral Commission chairman Badru Kiggundu and four other commissioners. I have read Gaaki Kigambo’s analysis in The Independent and found interesting. One of the new commissioners is Justin Ahabwe Mugabi, a teacher who has no idea of how the commission works.

Eng. Badru Kiggundu, EC photo
Eng. Badru Kiggundu, EC photo

And issues of competence of the current commission have been raised in the Ugandan media for quite a long time (since 2006.)  Many have said that Museveni is preparing to rig again come 2011. I think backgrounds of these commissioners need to be checked properly. When they appointed Sr Margaret Magoba many saw it as a ploy by Museveni to convince Catholics that he was with them and that he could choose a nun to be part of the organisation of elections. This could have been a good cover but I have got friends who went to Immaculate Heart Girl’s school where Sr Magoba was a headteacher for a good time. My friends were just 14 years in senior two when Uganda saw the first presidential elections under Museveni in 1996. My friend remained at school and the school was actually a polling station. She was actually forced to vote by Sr Magoba. No you can’t call it voting. My friend was called to the polling center which was in one of the rooms at school and they asked about her age and they gave her a ticked ballot, the only thing she did was drop it in the box.

The other friend a lady I have much respect for told me she was excited by the whole freedom to vote even when she was fifteen. She indeed ticked President Museveni under the watchful eye of Magoba. More than ten years after that she feels so bad about having to help a regime rig elections when she was only 15. So when out of nowhere she was appointed to the commission everyone new almost nothing about her and her part played in the past elections. It’s known that elections are not rigged at polling stations but at district levels so I think the opposition should not only concentrate on the EC but should move for reforms like mechanised polling process. Some Ugandans in South Africa have written in the past to the EC to ask if the can help procure the voting machines but the EC and government have turned a blind eye.

So if Kiggundu really stays he must be pressed to adopt changes so that the rigging is prevented. So events of having 15 year-olds voting in a little room at a school should not be repeated or having multiple voting which is done mostly in military barracks and other areas where government has deployed their vigilantes in the past.

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