Monday January 20 2014

Electoral reforms are crucial for Uganda’s democratic growth

By Miamingi

In recent times, the credibility and integrity of electoral management bodies, of the conduct and outcomes of elections have been at the centre for instability and conflicts in Africa. Therefore, how elections are designed and delivered is crucial to security, peace and development, especially in post-conflict and transitional societies.

Needless to mention, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), which is the ruling party in Uganda, prioritises the virtues of security, peace and development. The perceived independence of any country’s electoral management body, the transparency in the nomination process of the members of the body, credible safeguards at entry into and exit from the membership of the electoral management body, are indicative of the willingness and ability of a government to organise free, fair and transparent elections that all or a majority of players will believe in.

The draft electoral reform Bills prepared by the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda are a world piece of legislation that, if passed into law, will revolutionise the management, conduct and delivery of elections in Uganda; and significantly contribute to peace, security and development of the country. The draft Bills are also on the mark in respect to the normative, substantive and procedural deficits of the current regime governing elections in Uganda. The solutions provided for in the Bills are innovative, daring and ground-breaking in the history of the country.

If passed into law, the proposed Independent Electoral Commission of Uganda (IECU) (as will be known) will certainly enjoy normative, substantive and procedural independence. The provisions with respect to security of tenure and safeguards for entry into and exit from the membership of proposed IECU are exemplary. The requirement for inclusive participation in the nomination process of members of the proposed IECU would certainly increase ownership, confidence and public trust in the proposed new commission.

The draft pieces of legislation put Uganda in an exception position. They project Uganda as a country which is on its way to providing a very promising practice for countries in the region and beyond that strongly believe in the peace, security and sustainable development of Africa. Of course, Kenya has done it and it has done it successfully. I strongly believe that the Parliament of Uganda is set to be yet another pioneer and lead a number of other countries in Africa in re-engineering electoral democracy in Africa when it eventually passes these Bills into law.

The Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill and the Constitution (Amendment) Bill not only represent a total departure from the historical blues of governmental hegemony but also reflect the true democratic ideals of competition, merit, participation and transparency that progressive societies are increasingly embracing.

There is probably not a single reason as to why the Parliament of Uganda should doubt or question the proposed reforms. It is these changes that will ultimately change the face of elections from the ritualistic ceremonies held every five years, to the meaningful exercises where citizens use that inherent democratic right to have their voices heard through their respective votes.

Mr Miamingi is a Ph.D student and tutor,Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa.