Elections were free and  fair, EAC observers say

East African Community election observation mission head Domitien Ndayizeye (R) chats with another election observer. PHOTO/ DAVID LUBOWA 

The East African Community (EAC) election observation mission to Uganda has said Thursday’s elections were largely free and fair.

While presenting its preliminary statement, Mr Domitien Ndayizeye, the head of the mission and former president of Burundi, said the elections were largely free and fair, adding that it does not mean the process was devoid of problems.

“What we are saying is what we have seen… in general, the elections were free and fair. But this does not mean that there has not been problems here and there. In elections you never perform 100 per cent, such as switching off internet was not good for everybody,” Mr Ndayizeye said on Saturday.

The EAC mission commended Uganda for carrying out a peaceful election. However from their analysis, most of the polling stations they visited opened late as a result of malfunctioning of the biometric voter verification kits and late delivery of polling materials.

“Biometric voter verification kits were used in most polling stations visited. In some polling stations some machines malfunctioned, but remedial measures were taken to ensure voting by everybody,” Mr Ndayizeye said.

The mission noted that while the violence witnessed during campaign was regrettable and does not augur well for democratic culture, what was witnessed on voting day demonstrated a level of maturity expected of a democracy.

The EAC election observation mission also asked government to expedite investigations and hold accountable all those who contributed to injuries and loss of life during the campaigns.
Dr Samuel Azuu, the African Union head of mission, noted that there was high turnout of youth and women. Dr Azuu urged all stakeholders to refrain from violence.

The EAC mission, however, condemned government for switching off the internet at a time when citizens needed access to information the most.

“Owing to the limitation in technology capacity as a result of the restricted internet access, the mission was not able to observe transmission of results from the polling stations to the district and national tally centres. We were also not able to transmit our field information in real time,” Mr Ndayizeye said.