A three-day conference on electoral reforms opened in Kampala on Monday but with the conspicuous absence of government representatives.
Organised by civil society groups, religious leaders, political parties and non-government organizations (NGOs), with the support of donors, the national consultation on free and fair elections is a culmination of countrywide consultations on electoral reforms.
The idea is to mobilise support for a change in the existing electoral laws so as to clean up the electoral process that has in the past been marred by allegations of rigging, irregularities and violence.
That is indeed a noble cause, especially given the history of elections in Uganda. Ugandans can’t forget that a five-year civil war was fought on the basis of rigged elections in this country. Memories of Kenya in 2007 are also still very fresh, reminding us of what can happen when elections are mismanaged.
It is, therefore, disappointing that the government has stayed away from the consultative dialogue. Attending would have demonstrated that they value other people’s views and are willing to listen. The government might have its own proposals in the pipeline as suggested but the process of gathering them is unlikely to have been as inclusive as the one we have seen championed by civil society and opposition leaders.
On a critical matter like elections, it is important to transcend political differences. The central role played by civil society in organising this exercise made it easier to accommodate many Ugandans regardless of their political views.
Indeed several personalities that are not considered to belong to any political party have graced the dialogue. Besides, the fact that the usually-divided opposition groups have come together to produce these proposals highlights the inclusive character of the consultations.
Any ideas that can improve the conduct of our elections should be well received. That is why the team behind the consultations deserves to be congratulated. It is now up to the government to show commitment to free and fair elections by listening to legitimate suggestions by its people.
Source : The Observer