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
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)