Uganda went to the polls last week to elect president and Members of parliament and the election process will continue until February 3 . In the previous past three general elections of 2006, 2011 and 2016 pockets of electoral violence were witnessed.
The electoral process in many African countries and recently in the US has been characterised by violence. It is evident that electoral violence can happen before, during and after the elections.
Election violence include snatching of ballot papers or boxes, assaults on Opposition agents or parties, and harassment or intimidation by security agents among others.
In the aftermath of an election, violence may take the form of protests against electoral rigging, state’s deploying its apparatus of force in response to the protest.
It should be noted that electoral violence can be caused by both the ruling and Opposition forces, for various reasons including the following:
Militarisation of electoral process; the heavy deployment of men in uniform for whatever reasons often advanced by the proposers or opposers of such has often been tested, witnessed to have led to violence during elections. The deployments are met with resentment, and caused provocations that have been met with unmatched force quite often.
Arbitrary arrest; news of arrest of contestants and/or their supporters without clear information to their families and the general public by the authorities has often been met with excitement by the ‘stone throwing happy citizens’ for all sorts of reasons who normally meet their trigger happy peers on the streets.
Saboteurs, losers and propagandist; as witnessed in the recently primary elections for most if not all political parties, many declared themselves contesting in the final general elections with or without the endorsement of their respective party electoral commissions. True some processes are dubious and fraudulent but the packaging and approach to losing triggers the violent mind of the supporters in what leads to involvement in violence. These categories are normally the biggest haters of peace. Similarly, I will add the sycophants, who do not want to hear anything else less than a win for their candidates or party.
Mercenaries; use of such influential groups of people or individuals from across another district or voting franchise has often sparked the feeling of vote rigging.
Delayed announcement of results; the food that feed the saboteurs and losers is normally the delay by the electoral officials to announce results in a timely manner. Worse still, avenues for democratic redress, including the Judiciary, are also deeply implicated being in the deepening contradictions of the state.
Political intolerance by all; Uganda and/or Ugandans seem to have forgotten we are in a multi-party political dispensation. The level of intolerance of political views in alarming as seen recently during the street protest in Kampala where people were made to undress because of wearing particular colours associated with other political parties.
The question therefore to all is, where do you fall? Are you a beneficiary of electoral violence? Are you thriving on the electoral violence? What is the cost of electoral violence?
Beneficiaries: When you are either dead in your graveyard, maimed or fighting for your life at a health facility or home, the victories politicians will be tossing to wine and crispy cookies, in bow ties in the balcony of five star hotels or their mega country homes. Cognizant of John F. Kennedy’s assertion for instance that “the cost of freedom is always high…”, we must all however be genuine with our course, our own conscience and not be lured by those who thrive on electoral violence.
In conclusion therefore, the perpetrators of the above, Electoral Commission ought to ensure that the entire election process there is no blood shed on the streets of Uganda.
Joel Odokonyero is a research and advocacy officer for Conflict Transitional Justice and Governance Programme (CTJG) with Refugee Law Project.