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Women activists launch group to tackle election violence

An orange vendor being caned by security operatives

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |   Women activists under several non governmental organizations have today launched an election observer group that will to reduce violence during the 2020/2021 elections.

The group referred to as the Women’s Situation Room is made up of several women focused organizations like; Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET), Women’s International Peace Center, Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), and Women Human Rights Defenders Network (WHRDN).

Rita Aciro, the executive director of UWONET says that the women led election monitoring group will ensure that peace prevails during the elections that have already begun with many forms of violence.

“We are already seeing many acts of violence during the nomination period. This is likely to increase. And that is why we formed this room led by women. Naturally women are peaceful people and we want to use the spaces created in the four regions of the country to turn threats of violence into opportunities to promote peace and democracy,” added Aciro.

During the forth coming elections, the election monitoring group will have four offices based in different parts of the country. Each offices will have a toll free number where women and youth can call to report situations that might turn violent so that teams are sent on the ground to calm the situation.

The four regional offices will be based in Kampala, Gulu, Mbarara and Mbale. 

It is set to monitor election in 30 districts that are believed to be the centers of violence according to the 2015/16 general elections. The districts include; Gulu, Amuru, Kitgum, Koboko, Arua, Lamwo, Nwoya, Kampala, Wakiso, Masaka, Luwero, Mityana, Sembabule, Kassanda, Serere, Iganga, Jinja and Mbale. Other districts are; Katakwi, Bugiri, Soroti, Hoima, Mbarara, Isingiro, Kasese, Kabale, Rukungiri, Kanungu and Rubanda.

Hellen Kezie Nwoha, the executive director of the Women’s International Peace Center says they want to use the room to make sure that women and children do not get hurt during elections.

“This year we have doubled our activities to 30 districts because we want to make sure that women are not caught in the crossfires of a violent election. Often children and women face the brunt of violence in any community. This time round we want more women and children to feel safe in their communities,” she said.

According to Nwoha, they will be carrying out training of female observers in these districts to teach them how to detect situations that can easily turn violent and what they can do to promote peace and security in such situations.

According to reports from election observers, the 2015/2016 election period was marred with violence that claimed the lives of over five people and led to many riots and arrests. This year, the level of violence is expected to go a notch higher despite COVID-19 restrictions that bar large gatherings.

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