Saga in the Local Council Elections

Tuesday 10th July 2018, the Electoral Commission held village local council elections for the first time in 17 years, after being pushed forward numerous times during the course of this time for various reasons ranging from being challenged in court  to lack of funds.  Last held in 2001, the next round of elections was due in 2006 but was halted through a petition filed by Maj Rubaramira Ruranga, the then chairman of the FDC Electoral Commission.

In November 2017, the elections were suspended again following applications by citizens challenging the date set by the Commission. The Commission had set November 14 as the date for the election. A date which conflicted with the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education, UACE examinations. This would mean that students of voting age wouldn’t participate in the elections according to James Tweheyo, the former General Secretary of Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU). The nomination for Local Council Chairpersons took place on Wednesday, July 4 and Thursday, July 5 at the respective Parish Headquarters.

Village Local Councils, also known as LC I are  the lowest level of the local council levels of administration. They are responsible for affairs in the village or IN the case of towns and cities, neighborhoods. The areas covered by local councils II, III, IV and V, incorporate several of the lower local councils in hierarchy with the being responsible for the entire district. The LC V liaises with the Resident District Commissioner, who represents government’s interest at the district level. In theory, an issue is relayed up through the levels of local councils until it reaches an LC with sufficient authority to resolve it.  Similarly,  centrally planned directives and resources are relayed downwards until they reach the village level.

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Village local councils are therefore the first point of contact of an individual to the central government. They are informal justice systems that solve minor social disputes, enforce government programs like mass immunization of children, they are responsible for community security, sanitation, health, civic education etc.

However, the manner in which the elections were conducted is very primitive. Asking voters to form single files behind their candidate of choice at 9 am, is something not compatible with the times we are living in. There is no doubt some voters were coerced in various ways to vote for candidates whom they wouldn’t have voted for, was the ballot to be secret. In a society where being level headed is rare,  this method is definitely going to result into social disputes and persecution of individuals who voted for or against a particular candidate.

The way the campaigns were commercialized saw candidates moving around accompanied by trucks blaring music from public address systems, mounted onto them giving away money and alcohol to the people. We were used to this happening at higher level political campaigns, but the last few days have shown that the cancer has spread farther. For a job that has no fixed remuneration, once they assume office, the elected shall devise ways to recoup their investment. Needless to say, some of these ways shall not be noble!

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