Eighteen civil society organizations have formed the Citizens Election Monitoring Network- Uganda, CEON-Uganda, to watch the 2016 polls.
CEON-Uganda plans to deploy 200 long-term observers to cover the election campaigns and nominations, and later another 800 during the presidential election.
Speaking at the launch of CEON-Uganda at Golf Course hotel in Kampala last week, Livingstone Sewanyana, the coalition’s chairperson, said they would lay emphasis on voter registration, education and media monitoring, among others.
“Our focus will also include observing women and gender participation, people living with disabilities, human rights defenders, campaigns, security and behavior of security operatives, campaign financing and election administration by Electoral Commission (EC),” Sewanyana said.
At the function, also attended by some foreign dignitaries, Sewanyana said the observers would remain in the field for some time after the election to observe the post-election period.
Sabrina Bazzanella, the governance advisor to the European Union (EU) in Uganda, said the EU appreciated the work of nongovernmental organizations in promoting democracy in Uganda. She said transparency, integrity, participation and accountability are building blocks to democracy and elections are always more about participation than the voting day.
“Vote casting is a human right, participation and voter knowledge of the process and preparation are key; voters should know what they are voting for,” Bazzanella said.
She further explained that the role of CSOs is vital in educating the masses about elections and she also praised the Electoral Commission for allowing the CSOs to educate the masses about elections.
“I hope you will be able to work together for integrity, EU will closely follow and observe the elections very carefully; an observer will be sent since we have done this even in 2001 elections,” she said.
EC chairperson Badru Kiggundu, while officially launching the coalition, said this would be the biggest coalition in the history of Uganda and promised to work with them.
“We are happy to partner with CSOs; yes we have had hurdles during election processes but as a referee, we are committed to delivering free and fair elections, as midwives, we are committed to deliver a healthy baby,” he said. “We will have to share the responsibility of conducting free and fair elections; we are happy to work together as we swim together, when we drown we will drown together but I don’t think we will drown in these elections,” he said.
The coalition includes Action for Development (Acfode), Forum for Women in Democracy (Fowode), Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Human Rights Network- Uganda, Transparency International- Uganda, Uganda Women’s Network, and Uganda Youth Network.
Others include Women’s Democracy Network-Uganda Chapter, National Union of the Disabled Persons of Uganda, Women Leadership Development and Human Rights Network for Journalist.
Uganda NGO Forum, Human Rights Network Uganda, African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME), and Citizens Watch- IT (CEWIT Uganda) are also members.