Whenever one side or the other is unobjectively suppressed, the public tend to divert their anger, pain and dissatisfaction towards the innocent electoral body staff
By Ssentongo Muzafalu Zabaana
Some years back, Uganda used to have an excellent election climate. This was characterised by zero violence and high levels of tolerance for those they disagreed with. This was very evident, especially with the parliamentary and local council elections.
Agreeably, Uganda has come a long way in terms of democracy. We started building on it almost from zero after the liberation war that ended in 1986. It has been an expensive process into which a lot of resources have been sunk. Some of these have been ours and others from our development partners.
Thirty two years to day, we should only be celebrating the achievements of this huge and gradual investment. We should also be consolidating what we have achieved so far. But instead of making strides forward, we are moving in reverse. It’s been a lot of sacrifice and patience on the part of the leaders and most importantly Ugandans. Ugandans are part and parcel of the process because they have never shunned attending campaigns, let alone to vote.
An election is a process involving four cardinal steps or so. We have the campaign period, the voting itself, the counting and the announcement of results, among others.
Civilization demands that we keep the same calm and tolerant climate for all the four steps and then accept the final results, when the election is free, credible and transparent.
Parliament has often allocated a reasonable amount of the budget resources to the Electoral Commission because of the value it attaches to democracy, good governance and the rule of law.
Overtime the EC have endeavoured to play their part in a genuine and neutral way, emotional accusations notwithstanding, sometimes. It is the reason why they often bring on board the key stake holders when they convene pre-election meetings for consultation.
Unfortunately, their good motives and efforts have sometimes been betrayed and soiled by some wrong elements, when they unleash unnecessary anger, violence and brutality against the political actors and the electorate.
Nobody refutes, crime is sometimes committed during this period. But when crime is committed, how are perpetrators supposed to be handled? The suspects must be brought to book in a humane and professional manner.
Whenever one side or the other is unobjectively suppressed, the public tend to divert their anger, pain and dissatisfaction towards the innocent electoral body staff. This is pretty common especially when this suppression impacts the poll outcome negatively. They conclude that EC connived with others to deny them their chances.
Amid all the mess and fracas, the EC normally comes out to apologise for what they never participated in. They are in other words the ultimate victims. The real culprits never even have the courtesy to apologise – they walk away scot – free.
All over the world in civilised societies, when did elections become a do or die affair? If we really appreciate democracy and not pretending, we must cherish the spirit of competition and tolerance. We must avoid arrogance, intimidation and black mailing. Why do we break what we have built with our own true senses, over years? For example, Uganda’s military has been known for exemplary discipline in the region and beyond for some time. Why spoil that positive image.
Electoral commission is a composition of well accomplished professionals who constitute both political appointees and technocrats. As they are serving, they yearn to leave behind a clean record and legacy on their retirement. They can never be comfortable having their names tarnished by others.
I have heard both the opposition and ruling party accusing them of rigging for the other. Who is sincere and who is not? When each of those sides wins an election, they never compliment the EC but hasten to heap blame whenever they lose.
Opposition or ruling party, we are all obliged to create an enabling environment for these people for the continued growth of democracy. They are fellow Ugandans. Like any human beings, they may have their weaknesses here and there but help them to improve. I don’t think their negatives outweigh the positives.
The National Consultative Forum – NCF- has been preaching unity in diversity, peace and stability for some time. We shall not embrace political, military and election violence in this country.
Let the Electoral Commission staff only apologise and pay price for their own mistakes but not for others.
The writer is the member/publicist of the National Consultative Forum for Political Parties and Organisations and also member of the Green Partisan Party.