Voter mobilisation critical ahead of 2016

By Crispy Kaheru

Successful mobilisation of voters to participate in electoral processes raises people’s propensity not

only to vote in subsequent elections but also make informed choices.  Therefore, voter mobilisation

is equally, as important as other principle elements that indeed promote a functioning democracy.

Uganda will be heading to yet another election albeit the limited legal safeguards.  Major electoral

reforms that were meant to drive a significant turn-around in Uganda’s electoral system were yet

again traded for (minimal) administrative and rhetorical amendments.  Less than six months to the

coming election, amendments to: the Presidential Elections Act, 2005; the Parliamentary Elections

Act, 2005; the Electoral Commission Act, Cap 243; the Political Parties and Organisations Act,

2005; the National Women Council Act, Cap 318; the National Youth Council Act, Cap 319 among

others have not yet been effected to ensure synchrony with the recent Constitutional ‘amendments’.

 In the wake of such uncertainty over the legal regime under which the next general elections will be

conducted, it is imperative that the people of Uganda think and act on non-legal safeguards that

would equally and uniquely secure the electorate’s full suffrage while bolstering voters’ confidence in

the elections.


While the reform in the law is important in tackling some of the bottlenecks that are often

interpreted to give incumbents undue advantage over their fellow contenders in elections, legal

reforms would probably not directly motivate or mobilise more Ugandans to participate in electoral

processes but rather, provide that enabling environment which gives citizens the confidence to fully

participate in elections.  Within such a context, you need specific, direct, well-thought-out

interventions that will spur, motivate, excite or freshly stimulate Ugandans to participate

meaningfully in electoral processes while covering the gaps left behind by the deficits in the legal



In this case, parallel to the upcoming electoral activities such as candidate identification processes,

candidate nominations, campaigning etc there must be clear efforts (messages) to mobilise the

electorate with the aim of achieving three key objectives: 1) to ensure that an informed electorate

turns up to participate responsibly in key election activities; 2) to ensure that there is improved

citizen engagement during political campaigns; 3) to ensure that voter’ choices are based on policy

issues not wolokoso.

A mobilsation plan to achieve these objectives can only succeed, if it has the buy-in of all Ugandans

and friends of Uganda.  This is not just a path for political parties, or civil society or even just the

electoral management body to tread – but a message for all of us as Ugandans to carry and share.

 A portion of the electorate contends that without strong voter mobilisation and oversight on the

electoral process by the citizens themselves, elections are but mere events – with little civic meaning.

 Unlike previous attempts, voter mobilisation efforts this time-round must target not only young

people who have entered the electorate since 2011, but also those eligible voters who have

consistently failed to participate in previous elections.


Absence of a deliberate effort to encourage and ensure active, meaningful citizen participation in

the electoral processes in the run up to the 2016 general elections, may shroud the 2016 elections

and result into public and international criticism different what we have previously seen.

 Improving the integrity of elections in Uganda requires concerted efforts.  It is going to take the

form of reforms in many areas as well as the implementation of well thought out strong voter

education and mobilisation strategies.  Short of the above, Uganda may continue to suffer from the

undesirable electoral ramifications including: continued disengagement of voters from electoral

processes, search for undemocratic alternatives, while nursing recurrent rejections of election results

by losers with prospects of violence. 

The writer works with Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU)