While meeting President Museveni recently, Local Council leaders in Sembabule District are reported to have expressed their dismay at the backward method of voting proposed by Parliament.
They reportedly implored the President not to sign into law the amendment that seeks to have LC I elections held by lining up behind candidates. These leaders, unfortunately, are not alone in this warped thinking. They actually reflect the Ugandan national ethos of self-deception, hypocrisy and posturing, namely that democracy is expensive, thus the current hullaballoo that will see us spend more than Shs1 trillion by the end of February 2016, be it begged, earned or stolen.
And will Uganda be any better due to this ‘expression of our fundamental rights in a free, fair, secret ballot’? We begin with the basics.
It is not uncommon in water-stressed areas for people to share stagnant, muddy water with animals, domestic and wild alike. Now, when would a peasant in such a place be better off? Exercising his fundamental democratic right through a secret ballot or accessing safe and hygienic water?
Whereas the ideal is to have both, in a situation such as Uganda’s, I would opt for the latter. Moreover, if transparency be an element of good governance, then why hide? If I gauge my neighbour as not being suitable for an elected public office, I do not need to hide this.
By the way, we can even have a secret ballot without the costly paraphernalia and process that we witness at election time: imported ballot papers, ballot boxes, cameras and related accessories, officials travelling abroad to proof-read and prepress quality control.
Simply request every family to buy an exercise book. Whoever is coming to vote from that family carries a pre-written ballot paper, well folded, with the name of their preferred candidate. No illiterate person will fail to have a close relative to write their candidate’s name on their paper. On reaching the station, each voter drops their vote in a trough, and waits for the counting. This will be done by prefects from the primary school in whose compound the voting will happen, while two teachers from the same school will record the results. Simple.
Back to the water scarcity scenario. Some basic arithmetic here will do. We are choosing between ‘democracy’ and water. Our working figure is Shs4 billion, such as that earmarked for the NRM primaries.
Take a typical rural homestead in a water-stressed area. A 10,000 basic water tank will sail them through the 60-80 days of the dry season. This is water for domestic consumption.
Estimates put this at Shs1.2 million. A 10,000-litre water reservoir to harness and store run-off water during the rainy season will cost Shs700,000 or even less, if one uses heavy-duty PVC.
Thus, for less than Shs2 million, a family is able to have safe, clean, hygienic and accessible water throughout the year.
The water harvested from run-offs will be used for irrigation and watering animals, with basic treatment as charcoal or ashes from the kitchen. Thus, even with less than the four acres of land cited in President Museveni’s ideal family as a production unit, we can attain Vision 2040 earlier than planned
My take therefore is simple. We have a precedent. The 1989 expansion of the then legislature, the National Resistance Council, this is on record as the most transparent, free and economical election in Uganda’s recent history. The rules and regulations that governed that elections are still with us. Can someone help dig them up?