Senator Wako, activist Githongo appointed Uganda election observers


Uganda Decides
Ugandan poll workers count ballot papers at Nakasero Market polling station in Uganda’s capital Kampala on February 18, 2011. [Photo/hrw.org]

Busia Senator and former Attorney General Amos Wako has been appointed to a team of Commonwealth election observers for Uganda’s February 18 General Election.

Wako will be the vice chairperson of the team that will be headed by former Nigerian President Olusegon Obasanjo.

Kenya’s civil society activist John Githongo has also been appointed to the 13-member team which also brings together South African Commissioner for Human Rights Lindiwe Mokate, former UK MP Mark Robinson, former Director of the United Nations Office of the Special Advisor on Africa Patrick Hayford, former Australia Electoral Commissioner Paul Dace among others.

According to an announcement made by Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma, the body chose to send a team of observers following an invitation from the government of Uganda.

“The Commonwealth Charter recognises the inalienable right of individuals to participate in democratic processes, in particular through free and fair elections in shaping the society in which they live.”

“In this spirit, we urge all stakeholders in Uganda to commit to ensuring a peaceful and transparent election in which candidates and voters are free from intimidation and fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly are respected.”

The group will issue an interim statement of key findings shortly after the election.

A final report will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General and sent to local stakeholders before being made public. The group is supported by a staff support team from the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The February 18 elections have attracted eight candidates, with the incumbent Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for three decades, vying for a fifth term.

Other candidates in the race include former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Museveni’s fierce opposition Dr Kizza Besigye, former Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof Venansius Baryamureeba, Pastor Joseph Mabirizi, Bwanika Abed, Maureen Kyala and Benon Biraaro.

With two weeks to the elections, the Ugandan Electoral Commission (EC) has announced that it will use electronic systems in the forthcoming General Election.

The commission will use a Biometric Voter Verification Kit (BVVK) during the voter verification process and use the Electronic Results Transmission and Dissemination System (ERTDS) to transmit presidential and parliamentary results.

BVVK is set to authenticate voters’ identity using fingerprints to match the details in the systems in order to improve the management and conduct of the elections, according to a statement by the EC.

Kenya was the first East African country to use Biometric Voter registration and verification systems and electronic transition of results, which incurred observable failures.

The system failures were pointed out by the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) as an intentional plan executed by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to rig the elections in favour of Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta.

IEBC has since admitted to the failures experienced during the elections but denied the allegations of election rigging.

Uganda’s Electoral Commission has also stated that it had acquired 32,334 machines to cater for the 28,010 polling stations in Uganda during the elections where 15.2 million registered voters are expected to take part.

By @benjaminwafula

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