The Electoral Commission (EC) has embarked on a countrywide civic education campaign about the national voters’ register ahead of the 2021 elections.
Civic education is geared towards sensitising Ugandans about voter registration and verification of those whose names already appear in the register.
EC contracted Uganda Project Implementation and Management Centre (UPIMAC), a non-governmental organisation, to carry out the sensitisation. The update of the voters’ register commenced on November 21 and ends on December 11.
While the exercise has been embraced with enthusiasm in some districts, there has been a low turn-up in others.
Some voters in Moroto, Soroti, Lira, Luweero, Mbarara, Arua and Mbale districts did not show up for the Monday event.
In Moroto, several people turned up in big numbers for the exercise. On Monday, hundreds flocked Nadunget cattle market to check their details in the voters’ register. Others sought knowledge on how to change their current polling stations to those of their choice.
Ms Saya Iyolu, the Napak District returning officer, who represented the regional elections officer, Mr Linos Okori, explained the importance of updating the voters’ register.
“This exercise is taking place countrywide and we are asking all people above the age of 18 to report to any nearest parish to check their names and their polling stations. They can then decide whether to change the polling station or to remain at that particular polling station,” she said.
Mr John Ngorok, a resident, hailed the exercise, saying it is being done early enough unlike the previous elections.
In Soroti, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Wilberforce Tukei, challenged Ugandans to value the exercise because it is for their own good.
He said in situations where Gombolola Internal Security Officers and LCI chairpersons are not issuing letters to those seeking to change their polling stations, the District Internal Security Officer and the RDC can help. “We are paying attention to this exercise and my office is there to offer help,” Mr Tukei said.
In Lango Sub-region, the launch of the civic education campaign in Lira Town flopped after residents failed to turn up.
The function was supposed to start at 11am at Lira Town College’s playgrounds but by 5pm, most seats were still empty. This prompted Lira District registrar, Mr John Paul Osinde, who was the chief guest, to walk away.
The organisers later shifted to near Lira Main Market but residents were still not interested.
Mr Osinde blamed the low turn-up on a football match which was taking place at Akii-Bua Stadium. The match pitted Lango Province against Busoga Province in the FUFA Drum.
Mr Davisco Okuja, the Lango UPIMAC coordinator, said they have deployed their staff in all sub-counties to continue the civic education campaign.
In Soroti, the civic education event was held at Public Gardens. However, the exercise attracted a few people. Mr Deo Natukunda, the EC regional officer, told the gathering that their right to vote will be determined by their willingness to register or crosscheck with the particulars in the voters’ register.
Mr Natukunda said the exercise will not be extended because the EC has already invested in awareness campaigns.
“We shouldn’t do things at the last minute. Go and encourage people to register – those who have made 18 and those about to make 18 years,” he said.
In Luweero, the EC appealed to the public not to shy away from the ongoing voter update exercise. Mr Rashid Musinguzi from the Central North Electoral Commission office told residents who turned up for the civic training at Kasana Market grounds that the exercise will not be repeated.
“This is the only time for you to have your particulars captured. The February 2020 exercise will be a display exercise and not update,” he explained.
Mr John Ssegujja, a representative of UPMAC in Luweero commended the voters for the mass turn up for the training.
Compiled by Bill Oketch, Simon Peter Emwamu, Dan Wandera, Patrick Ebong & Steven Ariong.