Elections in Uganda have consistently been marred by violence, intimidation and a culture of impunity. The winner takes all syndrome has also created a hostile terrain where the exercise of citizens democratic franchise has become highly monetised, perpetrating a “do or die” affair for candidates and political parties alike. This has always given rise to brewing tensions, escalating sentiments and electoral violence in Uganda. The aforementioned scenario was no different during the most recent presidential and general elections in Uganda in February 2016.
What was peculiar this time around was the fierce intra party rivalry within the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, as seen among other occurrences, the expulsion of the former Prime Minister and Secretary General. The fallout at the apex of the leadership structure either led aggrieved party supporters to the camp of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party or pressed upon them to run for the elections as independent candidates. The NRM party primaries additionally recorded loss of lives and properties of candidates and supporters. The stakes for the elections were compounded when the Ugandan legislature amended the Parliamentary Elections Act to raise nomination fees for candidates. Opposition political parties viewed this as a draconian mechanism to impair their financial obligation to field candidates for the elections.
There was the militarization of this democratic elections. This assertion became pronounced when men in uniform were deployed to communities to take charge of implementing social programmes such as the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADs). Aside the Military, the police created a youth arm of crime preventers as part of its community policing strategy where community youth members were recruited to act as the eyes and ears of the police. However, this news received mixed reactions from Ugandans as they expressly feared such youth would rather engage in instigating and perpetrating violence as well as causing fear and panic within communities.
Furthermore, security agencies especially the police nurtured a culture of intolerance for peaceful civic action under the implementation tenets of the Public Order and Management Act. These events eroded the trust Ugandan electorates had in the public systems and structures to create an enabling environment free from fear, panic and intimidation. These events were also indicators of potential violence and major threat to the existing social order, the development and democratic gains so far obtained in Uganda.
In view of all these, women and youth organisations as part of their active commitment towards ensuring a peaceful election agreed to replicate the Women’s Situation Room (WSR) in Uganda where women in collaboration with youth would lobby and engage all actors and stakeholders to actively commit to peaceful elections.
While all actions and interventions of the WSR-Uganda were guided by the fundamental principles of the WSR, the process was also fully responsive to the Ugandan political climate and election specific issues and concerns. The main structures of engagement and lobbying in the operationalisation of the WSR by the women and youth were the political parties, national elections authority, security sector entities, media, religious bodies and all relevant local authorities. At the local level, the operations of the WSR were fully implemented in 8 priority counties identified as flash points with the real potential for violence. However, the robust media campaign was carried out across all 47 counties. This ensured the process was successfully replicated in Uganda.
Major Highlights of the WSR-Uganda 2016
The Eminent Women Mediators were independently selected by incumbent President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the main opposition leader, Warren Kizza Besigye Kifefe to mediate the peace talks. In line with United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs 1325 and 1820), this was a major milestone for the Eminent Women of the WSR to manage the national peace dialogue to prevent violent confrontations in post-elections Uganda.
Uganda 2016 News
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