After nearly five months of research in 13 districts of Uganda, findings show the much anticipated 2021 election will be marred by unprecedented violence.
The research report titled; ‘Early warning Signs for Violence in Uganda’s 2021 Elections and Structures and Strategies for Mitigation,’ conducted by the Women’s Democracy Network and Innovation for Democratic Engagement and Action [IDEA] found that 83 percent of all those surveyed believe there will be violence in the next election.
According to Job Kiija, the director of IDEA, the main causes of violence will be a lack of political reforms, formation of new political parties, failure to find solutions to previous causes of electoral violence, oppression of the opposition, political intolerance, banning opposition politicians from radios and dispersing political rallies among others.
“President Museveni is moving around the country campaigning yet we are not seeing security organs stopping him. This has caused a lot of anxiety among the opposition who are not allowed to hold public meetings,” Kiija said.
The report found that youths are the major causes of electoral violence followed by security personnel who in most cases interfere with electoral processes on behalf of the NRM party. The research that was carried out between March and July 2019 was conducted in 13 districts drawn from all the sub regions that make up the country except Karamoja.
The 450 respondents were drawn from the ruling NRM, opposition parties, Electoral Commission returning officers, security officers, non-governmental organizations and media. Districts surveyed included; Arua, Gulu, Hoima, Jinja, Kabale, Kampala, Kasese, Kumi, Lira, Mbale, Mbarara, Mukono and Tororo.
Perry Aritua, the country director of Women’s Democracy Network, said government must find solutions to the causes of election violence before the country goes up in flames. She said the solution lies in getting opportunities for young people so that they are not recruited by politicians to cause havoc.
She also urged government to reform the electoral laws so that there is a price to pay for being violent.
“We need to address gaps in the law that are making it easy for people to commit violence. As the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs’ Committee gathers views on electoral laws, it’s important to tackle issues that prevent election violence. We must have a code of conduct for candidates, which is implemented so that those who are found culpable are dealt with. Why would you have a candidate who was found guilty of perpetuating violence participating in a by-election?” Aritua said.
For Alice Alaso, the interim secretary general of the Alliance for National Transformation political party, government holds the key to peaceful elections.
“How do you even talk about peaceful elections when the government is forming Local Defense Units (LDUs), a new outfit to replace crime preventers. Who knows their command structure, who knows their terms of reference; why are they coming now and not when women were being killed in Entebbe?” Alaso said.
She called upon government to bring what she called real electoral reforms as proposed by the Supreme court in the Amama Mbabazi electoral petition ruling.
“We need the real electoral reforms that the Supreme Court said should be enacted not these crazy proposals that the Attorney General is bringing to divert the country. What bred violence were not the independent candidates who the reforms want to target but the security organizations,” Alaso said.
Francis Zaake, the Mityana municipality MP and the People Power youth coordinator, said the nature of the 2021 elections will be determined by the actions of President Museveni.
“President Museveni is on the record telling the nation that he’s the master of violence. The only way we can avoid violence completely in the next election is making sure that Museveni is not on the ballot because with him on the ballot, be sure there can never be a free and fair election. As youths, we believe we are going to enforce a free and fair election. We are going to make sure that we deal with the promoters of violence; how we are going to do that, we shall let you know at the right time,” Zaake said.
For Lydia Wanyoto, the NRM Women’s League chairperson, “Violence is caused by people who are not sure they are going to win. We need to engage every person concerned to know that there is life after an election.”
She however, emphasized that government is ready and willing to deal decisively with anyone who disturbs the peace.
“They should choose peace otherwise if they don’t, government has institutions that are working so they will be checked. Police will not sit in their offices and keep quiet if there is pelting of stones or fighting on the streets.”