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EC chair to voters: Don’t feel intimidated by soldiers

Soldiers at a polling station

Soldiers at a polling station

As the country prepares for the 2026 general elections, the chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama, has reassured Ugandans not to feel intimidated by the presence of the military during elections.

Instead, he urges them to appreciate the military’s role in upholding peace and security during the electoral process. This statement was made during a media interview after the chairman attended the IGAD Youth Symposium organized at Makerere University. Justice Byabakama explained that the constitution allows the police to call for the deployment of other security organs during elections if necessary.

“In Uganda, you can’t hold elections without using the security organs, that’s why we always use the police. However, the constitution allows the police to use other enforcement as they are doing their work, but we as the commission always caution them to follow the law as they do their work,” he said.

He also mentioned that the commission frequently receives complaints about military involvement in elections, often overtaking the work of the Electoral Commission. However, he urged people to provide evidence so that these cases can be followed up. Concerns about army brutality and vote rigging during elections have been raised by Ugandans in the past.

For instance, during the Oyam by-election last year, unidentified individuals suspected to be from the military allegedly attacked Wang Lobo polling station, resulting in disorder and confusion. Eyewitnesses reported that armed men held the presiding officer at gunpoint and pre-ticked five booklets containing 250 ballots.

Byabakama emphasized that such incidents are against the law and those involved should be investigated and charged individually. He advised Ugandans to respect the roles of security services, abide by the regulations issued by the commission regarding the conduct of elections, and not fear the military.

“People shouldn’t fear the military because they are our sons, daughters, and fellow Ugandans. If you have done nothing wrong, there is no need to fear the army or the police because they are there to carry out their constitutional duties,” he said.

He also promised to facilitate a dialogue between political parties and security organs to prevent the recurrence of such unfortunate episodes during elections. Furthermore, Byabakama updated the public on the Electoral Commission’s upcoming election roadmap, which was released last year. The commission will begin with the demarcation of electoral areas and the reorganization of polling stations next month, following the allocation of funds in the recently released budget for the financial year 2024/2025.


Byabakama also spoke at the main event organized by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), in collaboration with the Electoral Commission and the National Youth Council. The event, held at Makerere University, aimed to empower youth leaders with the knowledge and skills necessary to safeguard peace and security during elections in Uganda.

According to available statistics, the youth constitute about 70 per cent of the population, and as of April 2024, registered voters aged 18 to 30 numbered 5,884,375 out of a total of 18,511,600 registered voters.

This number is expected to rise when the Electoral Commission updates the National Voter’s Register in January 2025, highlighting the pivotal role the youth play in Uganda’s politics and the need for their sensitization to make informed decisions.

In his speech, the chief guest Justice Byabakama, chairperson of the Electoral Commission, emphasized the importance of youth participation in Uganda’s affairs, recognizing the demographic majority that young people represent in the country and across Africa. He underscored the need to harness the energy, vibrancy, enthusiasm, creativity, and innovativeness of the youth to contribute meaningfully to democratic development and socio-economic transformation.

Byabakama stressed the importance of enhancing youth engagement in the electoral process in a constructive manner.

“Youth participation not only positively impacts democratic governance and socio-economic development but also expands the democratic space, fosters inclusivity, and brings forth the boundless potential of young individuals into political and governance processes,” he said.

Furthermore, he expressed concern about the phenomenon of the commercialization of elections, highlighting the detrimental effects it has on the democratic process in Uganda. Byabakama mentioned the alarming trend where individuals aspiring for political office are required to possess significant financial resources, often ranging from hundreds of millions to billions of shillings, to fund their campaigns and secure victory.

“I am told that someone attempting to contest for parliament must have a sack of between Shs 500 million and 1 billion. This rapid commercialization of politics is a deterrent for the youth. Where will they get the 500 million? And secondly, what caliber of leader are you going to choose, and is our democracy now to the highest bidder?” he said.

He called for a collective effort to address this issue and urged the youth to denounce the practice of buying and selling political influence. He stressed the importance of sensitizing young people about government initiatives aimed at addressing economic challenges, which often lead to feelings of anger, bitterness, and a lack of appreciation among the youth.

Counsel Innocent Ndahirwe, one of the keynote speakers, highlighted the need to recognize and reward the efforts of young individuals who have made significant progress in ensuring a peaceful electoral process and a stable future for Uganda.

He acknowledged the contributions of various organizations and entities, such as the Electoral Commission, the National Youth Council, and the IGAD Youth Forum for Peace, in fostering proactive youth engagement and participation in conflict prevention and peace-building efforts at both national and regional levels.

“IGAD, collaborating with various programs, contributes to the development of strategies that engage young people in economic, social, and political spheres,” he said.

Dr. Mercy Kobusigye, serving as the leader of the IGAD Youth Forum for Peace, Uganda chapter, stated that the establishment of the Youth Forum for Peace is a regional platform aimed at giving youth a voice in decision-making processes and mobilizing them for peace initiatives at national and regional levels. This platform inspires youth to be change-makers and promotes social cohesion and development agendas within their countries.


0 #1 kabayekka 2024-06-19 09:09
As the picture in this article shows, how can one feel when in this process of electing a leader a man or a brother or sister comes along wearing a military uniform and straped on the back with a military weapon?

The Kingdom state of Buganda cannot accept any more such a process of formulating central government. As it is now clear all over the continent of Africa, African leadership want to stay put in state power until Jesus comes back to earth.

In one hand they hold the gun and on the other the democratic votes of rigged elections. If the Buganda Kingdom state continues in such endeavour, it does so at its own peril.
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-1 #2 kabayekka 2024-06-19 10:08
Such government derogatory messages that encourage the citizens of this country to continue to participate in rigged elections have only encouraged many to boycott Uganda national elections.

It is unfortunate that the Kabaka of Buganda who did so much to upgrade the struggles of the NRM to international standard is camatose, inactive and very far from his people who gave their life so that Uganda national elections must be free and fair.

The King of Buganda if he is not deported as usual out of His country like what used to happen to his fore parents, he should be at home recuperating amongst his kith and kin. As such a national process is unfair and not free, the Kingdom state must no longer participate in such a process.
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0 #3 Marc Mae 2024-06-20 01:41
Great picture that shows one should not fear. What rubbish of course I would take off and run for my dear life.
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+1 #4 Uhuru 2024-06-20 05:38
Byanakama must have been drunk or high on a drug when uttering those words.

How can people not feel intimidated by the NRA soldiers who are known to shoot and kill people without any provocation?

The NRA has never kept peace or ensured the security of Ugandans except of those in power.
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+1 #5 Michaeli 2024-06-20 10:36
What a dishonest man!
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