Govt Controls People's Consent in Elections -Researchers

2109 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
In the book titled Controlling Consent: Ugandas 2016 Elections, the researchers at Centre for Basic Research note that voters free consent in Uganda is controlled among others through electoral governance processes such as making the rules that determine the outcome of elections.

Ugandan researchers have revealed that Government controlled voters' free consent through different electoral governance processes.

In the book titled "Controlling Consent: Uganda's 2016 Elections", the researchers at Centre for Basic Research note that voters' free consent in Uganda is controlled among others through electoral governance processes such as making the rules that determine the outcome of elections.

The book, compiled with funding from the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), also notes that voters' consent was controlled through the management of the voting exercise through the Electoral Commission and partisan security agencies. The researchers say that security was manned by interested parties who also participated in elections.

The researchers note that control of consent means a Government can be illegitimate to the people though it is declared legal by an adjudicator on the side of Government.

The book notes that in some cases soft power which is not easily measured has been used to control consent.

Makerere University Professor Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a reviewer of the book noted in a summary that the prospect of having free consent of the citizens in an election exercise in Uganda has grown dimmer according to the 22 researchers, adding that the politically and socially constructed barriers to free consent are still present, numerous and increasing.

Mwambutsya said those in power, who are responsible for electoral governance, control state resources, information, electoral law making process, security, electoral adjudication among others. This, he says, makes it very difficult for the process to be free and fair.

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The book written by 22 writers including academicians, experts and activists notes that for a government to be legal and legitimate, the consent of the voters should not be tampered with.

Joe Oloka Onyango. a professor of Law at Makerere University who edited the book, noted that all the authors agree that Ugandans were robbed of their consent to vote. He says the book raises a big question about the fairness of elections in Uganda and proposes reforms before the 2021 elections.

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Robert Kalundi Sserumaga, a reviewer of the book questioned whether Uganda is actually designed to have free and fair elections. He asked why people become politicians and what kind of manifesto a candidate would need to win.

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Hillary Onek, the minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees who represented the prime minister, noted that sometimes government has ended up with partial solutions since nature does not allow. He however stated that he is optimistic the findings of the book will go a great step in building Uganda's election process but also foster peace.

The book talks about the implications of former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi's candidature, the role and implications of crime preventers, opposition under-performance, donor politics and the NRM regime among others.

Notable among the authors are Dr Sylvia Tamale, a scholar, Sabiti Makara, Dr Josephine Ahikire, Prof Joe Oloka Onyango, David Mpima, Maria Nassali among others.

The title of the book is derived in large part from Article 1 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda which states "All power belongs to the people who shall exercise their sovereignty in accordance with this Constitution."  Clause 4 of the same Article is more to the point: "The people shall express their will and consent on who shall govern them and how they should be governed, through regular, free and fair elections of their representatives or through referenda."


About the author

Alex Otto
“Journalism that changes lives is my goal,” Alex Otto has said on more than one occasion. That is his career’s guiding principle. Has been since he was a radio journalist in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu in 2009.

Otto passionately believes his journalism should bring to the fore the voices of the voiceless like the shooting victims of Apaa. Otto tries in his journalism to ask tough questions to those in positions of authority.

Based in the Kampala bureau, Otto is especially interested in covering agriculture, politics, education, human rights, crime, environment and business. He has reported intensively on the post-conflict situation in northern Uganda.

A URN staff member since 2014, Otto previously worked with The Observer Newspaper from 2012 to 2013 and later the Institute for War and Peace Reporting IWPR based in Gulu.

He was the URN Gulu bureau chief 2014-2016.