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Uganda: Referendum Monitoring
Uganda: Referendum Monitoring
Date distributed (ymd): 000430
Document reposted by APIC
Region: East Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +gender/women+
This posting contains the March report from the Referendum
2000 NGO Monitoring Cluster in Uganda. For more information
contact the Cluster at the addresses included in the posting.
For more frequent information and more extensive background
there are abundant sources from and about Uganda available
Selected sources include:
Africa News Service
The East African
Uganda Home Pages
UN Integrated Regional Information Service
For more extensive background and listings of sitees, click on
the Uganda references on the Africa Policy web site in the
East Africa start page
(http://www.africapolicy.org/featdocs/east.htm) and the
East Africa news start page
NGO MONITORING CLUSTER
This is the third report prepared by the Referendum 2000
Monitoring Cluster. It was published in The Monitor and the
New Vision on April 11, and in the East African on April 17.
Translations of the report in four local Ugandan languages
will appear in newspapers during the week of April 24. Please
contact the Referendum 2000 Monitoring Cluster, c/o Uganda
Joint Christian Council, regarding the January and February
reports, or to receive future reports.
For further information, please contact:
The Referendum 2000 Monitoring Cluster
PO Box 30154, Kampala, Uganda
Tel: 254219; Fax: 254522/344251
The Monitoring Cluster is an independent, impartial,
non-partisan, neutral body, which has no political
preferences. It comprises six NGOs: UJCC (Uganda Joint
Christian Council); NOCEM (National Organisation for Civic
Education and Monitoring); FIDA-(U) (Uganda Association of
Women Lawyers); UJSC (Uganda Journalists Safety Committee);
UWONET (Uganda Women's Network); and CASE (Community Agency
for Social Enquiry) International. Monitoring is carried out
by a Secretariat in Kampala, and by 214 county-level monitors.
The cluster is observing and reporting on the following
issues: The Legislative Framework; Referendum Administration;
the Campaign; Media; Gender/ Women's Participation; and Other
The objective of the Referendum 2000 Monitoring programme is
to comprehensively monitor all aspects of the referendum
process, in accordance with international best practices, and
report its findings to the public in monthly reports.
The Referendum 2000 Consortium of NGOs consists of 15 Ugandan
NGOs, participating in four functional groups or clusters:
Monitoring, Media, Civic Education, and Civic Education for
Women. The Consortium is funded by a group of international
1. THE LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK
Status of Legislation
The status of legislation pertaining to the referendum in
March is as follows:
- The Electoral Commission (Amendment) Statute was assented to
on 13 March 2000 and commenced on 14 March 2000.
- The Political Organisations Bill is still before the Legal
and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Given the period
remaining it seems unlikely that this bill will be passed
before the referendum. Even if it is passed, it will be too
late for it to have any impact on the referendum.
Registration of Other Political Systems
The Electoral Commission (EC) received seven petitions for
"other political systems": The Federo Democratic System, The
National Coalition System, The Compromise System, The
Confederation Political System, The Communism System, The
Neo-Movement System, and The Native Federation System. The EC
is in the process of verifying the signatures supporting these
petitions. The Monitoring Cluster is concerned that:
- The Other Political Systems Act 2000 and Regulations do not
provide a time limit within which the EC should complete the
- If any "other political system" is approved, it will not
have sufficient time to organise and canvass.
- Some signatories in support of the petition for the Federo
Democratic system claim that they are afraid of appearing for
verification lest they be victimised for supporting another
2. REFERENDUM ADMINISTRATION
Registration: Registration in Kampala was re-opened from March
21-31. As a result of the direct intervention of the
President, registration up-country was moved from the district
back to the parish level, closer to the people who need to
According to our monitors' field reports, the turnout for
registration has been low, in spite of diligent efforts by the
EC to inform the public through radio and newspaper spots.
Factors that have contributed to this low turnout include:
- Ignorance about the referendum and the issues involved, as
a result of poor and inadequate civic education.
- The EC has been administratively challenged during the
process. For instance, there were districts that lacked
sufficient transfer forms, and areas where registration forms
were not taken back to the parishes from the district
- Field reports indicate that tax defaulters continued to be
arrested in Mbale, Adjumani, Kabarole and Mukono, even after
a directive by the President and the Chairman of the EC that
the registration process should not be used as a means of
collecting taxes or arresting tax defaulters.
- Insecurity in Bundibugyo, Katakwi, Kabarole, Kasese, Moroto,
Kotido, Gulu and Kitgum.
The Monitoring Cluster notes that:
- Chiefs, RDCs, LCs and churches have been instrumental in
mobilising people to register.
- Monitors report that local EC officials have generally been
doing a good job in assisting people to register.
However, the Cluster notes with concern that:
- The ten-day period for registration in Kampala was not
- Students in institutions of higher learning were not given
adequate time to register.
- The EC extended the hours of registration in Kampala for two
days (March 30-31) to 9:30 pm. However, the EC did not provide
adequate transfer forms and equipment like lanterns for this
The Cluster has tried to obtain information that should be
public knowledge from the EC regarding the finances for the
referendum, but as yet this has not been forthcoming.
The Referendum Question:
The Question still has not been framed. This seriously hinders
civic educators in their job to inform citizens about the
issues in the referendum. A panel of three judges (Justices
Karokora, Ogoola, and Kitumba) has been named by the Chief
Justice to frame the question in consultation with the sides
in accordance with the Referendum and Other Provisions Act.
The Referendum Date:
The EC still has not set the date for the referendum. Civic
educators cannot be expected to do a good job of informing the
public about the referendum, if they don't know when it is
going to be. Setting a date for the referendum may also speed
up the referendum process.
Guidelines on Canvassing:
The EC has not issued guidelines on canvassing as required
under The Referendum and Other Provisions Act.
Symbols for the Sides: The Movement has chosen a Bus as its
symbol. The Multi-partyists have chosen a Dove. These symbols
should appear on the ballot papers to identify the sides.
However, they have not yet been gazetted in accordance with
the law, and are therefore not yet official. This is a
significant hindrance for civic educators.
Impartiality of the EC: The cluster notes with great concern
the reports in the media about alleged statements comparing
the Multi-party system and the Movement system made by the
Chairman of the EC in Masaka on March 22. We feel that it is
imperative that such a high election official maintains
absolute impartiality in all his statements.
3. THE CAMPAIGN
Reports from our field monitors indicate that there has been
little formal campaign activity taking place. Nevertheless,
meetings have been held in a number of districts, with the
majority of them being organised by Movement supporters.
The general trend of the campaign in March has focused on the
Movement urging people to register and to vote; while the
boycotting political parties have been urging people to
register, but to boycott the referendum.
Twenty of the 27 members of the Multi-party National
Referendum Committee (MRC) met with the Chairman of the EC to
resolve their differences, however, the results of this
meeting were inconclusive. Nevertheless, the Multi-party side
has launched district committees in all districts except
Bundibugyo and Katakwi.
Campaign Meetings: Field reports also indicate that some
meetings and rallies have been carried out without
interference from the authorities. For instance:
- The Boycotting parties held a large rally of over 1000
people on Friday, March 24 at the Constitutional Square in
Kampala. It was undisturbed by the police.
- There have been public meetings in Kampala at which both
Movementists and Multi-partyists have shared platforms.
However, field reports also indicate that various campaign
meetings have been prevented from taking place:
- A rally organised by Hajji Nasser Sebaggala in Mbarara on
March 31, was violently broken up by armed police and the 34th
Army Battalion using live ammunition. Several people were
reported to have been injured. The Ministry of Internal
Affairs stated that "Ssebagala was only allowed to visit
[Mbarara], not to address a rally."
- In Moyo, Multi-partyists tried to hold a public meeting but
were prevented by the sub-county chief who stated that he was
not notified of the intention to hold the meeting.
- According to field monitors in Arua, Multi-partyists
cancelled their public meeting because they were denied the
use of chairs and the public address system, which they were
told were reserved for Movement supporters.
There continue to be reports of people using irresponsible and
- According to The Monitor (11/03) an advisor to the President
warned, "if Ugandans boycott the forthcoming referendum, the
only alternative will be for the army to take over power."
Suspension of Chakamuchaka:
The Chairman of the EC has suspended chakamuchaka (political
education) courses throughout the country because they promote
only the Movement ideology.
Government Officials: Reports have been received from Kotido,
Hoima and Katakwi that RDCs are actively campaigning for the
Movement, and they are using government resources such as
vehicles, and other public facilities.
Political Bargaining: Field reports indicate more incidents of
political bargaining in which the threat to withhold votes
from the Movement is the key bargaining point.
- In Kotido, some people have stated that they will not vote
in the Referendum if the government does not stop the
- In Bugiri, some people have carried posters at public
meetings which state "No Naava, No Referendum."
The media group in the Monitoring Cluster has been carefully
monitoring the referendum-related content of the principal
English language papers for the month of March. The following
table shows the results of this preliminary monitoring.
("Government" refers to the EC, official functions related to
the referendum, and to other normal government activities.)
The New Vision The Monitor
Government 57% 51%
Movement 8% 26%
Multiparty 12% 8%
Boycotters 21% 9%
Other Systems 1% 1%
Other 1% 5%
While both newspapers are giving about equal coverage to
referendum-related news (43% to 49%), there are significant
differences within these totals, as one might expect. Among
other things, The New Vision carried almost three times more
news about the Boycotting political parties than about the
Movement; while The Monitor carried three times more coverage
of the Movement than of the Boycotting political parties.
Coverage by both papers of the Multiparty is about equal (12%
The April Media Report will be expanded to include radio and
TV coverage of the referendum.
5. GENDER/WOMEN'S PARTICIPATION
Reports by 20 UWONET gender monitors who visited 10 districts
show that the turn out of women for registration was low.
Factors that contributed to this include: lack of transport,
long distances for women to travel, domestic duties,
insecurity, and poor publicity. However, in Kisoro, where
registrars physically went to homes to register disabled,
pregnant women and others, a high number of women were
registered. In Kyahi village, for example, out of 250
registered voters, 150 were women; and in Kibaya, 100 of the
175 people registered to vote were women. In Gulu, 60% of the
registered voters were women. They got voters* cards as
protective documents, following rumours that such documents
could be used to allow them passage through police roadblocks.
Women*s participation as civic educators was generally poor,
and except for urban areas, there are few women election
officials. On the other hand, women*s participation in civic
education in several regions, like Katakwi and Kalangala, was
considered good. Effective venues for workshops were markets,
women*s clubs and drinking places.
6. OTHER RELEVANT ISSUES
The Monitoring Cluster notes with serious concern the delay in
the release of funds pledged by the donors. This lack of funds
is severely affecting the effectiveness and efficiency of the
NGOs in executing their civic education and monitoring
The National Political Commissar of the Movement Secretariat
stated that the current ban on political parties, found in
Article 269 in the Constitution, will most likely be lifted
after the referendum in June, because a political system will
have been chosen. However, he also noted, that after the
referendum, the winning side would probably impose
restrictions on the other system which did not win, and that
this would be constitutionally permitted. (The New Vision
15;16/3; The Monitor 15/3)
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary
objective is to widen international policy debates around
African issues, by concentrating on providing accessible
policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide
range of groups and individuals.