Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF) has hailed the Police for their role in securing equipment during the just concluded National Voters’ Register (NVR) exercise, but are unhappy about reported incidents of extortion involving Gombolola Internal Security Officers (GISOs).
In a statement, UNNGOF commended the logistical coordination between Police and the Electoral Commision (EC) but said it “noted with concern incidents of extortion involving GISOs who demanded for, between sh5,000 and sh5,000 to authenticate applicants’ registration forms.”
“It It is likely that requests for payments for a free public exercise could have turned away applicants – especially in the rural areas of Uganda,” UNNGOF said at the end of the National Voters’ Register (NVR) exercise conducted by the Electoral Commission (EC) between 21st November and 23rd December 2019 in preparation for the 2020/2021 general elections in Uganda.
UNNGOF also noted that poor publicity, issues with the kit and heavy rains might also have seen the EC register numbers below their target.
UNNGOF deployed 52 observers covering 46 districts in 14 regions, i.e. Acholi, West Nile, Sebei, Ankole, Lango, Karamoja, Tooro, Bunyoro, Teso, Busoga, Bugisu, Bukedi, Kigezi and Buganda. The update exercise was observed at 729 update centers (parishes), representing 7.3% of the total update centers countrywide1 over a period of fifteen (15) days.
The National Voter’ Register Update exercise was intended to register new voters; effect transfers of voters to new voting locations; enable registered voters to check and confirm their voting particulars; and update details of learners who were registered under the Learners Project in 2017 who had since attained the age of 18.
DETAILS OF THE REPORT
Observers noted with satisfaction that enrollment kits were secured and stored at Police facilities within respective districts. This ensured security of the equipment that was used for the National Voters Register Update exercise. UNNGOF commends the logistical coordination observed between Police and the EC.
The NGO forum has called for action to be taken on those said to have extorted money.
“Besides investigating the role played by the GISOs during the NVR update exercise, administrative action must be taken on those who extorted money from applicants as well as those who were involved in other malpractices,” the NGO forum stated in their statement released this week in Kampala.
“In future, the EC should endeavor to inform Ugandans that such electoral exercises are free of charge. Notwithstanding interventions of security agencies, observers noted that the exercise was conducted in a peaceful and calm manner at 80% of the update centers visited.”
Other than the demand for payments, UNNGOF observers said there were many cases where applicants could not easily reach some GISOs, while in other cases GISOs intimidated and turned away applicants on the basis of their (applicants) perceived political affiliation.
“In districts such as Masaka there was reported fear on the part of citizens to obtain verification from GISOs. It is highly imperative to underscore that, whereas GISOs may have played a central role during the NVR update exercise, there is currently no law that supports their role in such an electoral exercise.”
UNNGOF observers, according to the statement, noted that whereas each of the 10,011 parishes countrywide was envisaged to have an enrollment kit, due to logistical reasons, some regions had one (1) enrollment kit shared among an average of five (5) update centers within a Sub County.
For accessibility purposes, the enrollment officers in some cases moved the equipment between Parishes to ensure broader coverage within a Sub County.
“This however inconvenienced registrants who failed to locate update centers in various places within the Sub County. Observers came across kits that were either not functioning or that regularly malfunctioned. Incidents of cameras and scanners not working were prevalent during the first week of the exercise. In most cases, the EC responded to reports of malfunctioning equipment through providing trouble-shooting assistance as well as offering technical supervisory support to the enrollment officers in the field.”