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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Uganda: Referendum Monitoring

Uganda: Referendum Monitoring
Date distributed (ymd): 000430
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: East Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +gender/women+
Summary Contents:
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 on-line.

Selected sources include:

Africa News Service

The East African


New Vision

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
( and the East Africa news start page

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



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

March Statement

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 Relevant Issues.

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 donors.


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 verification exercise.
  • 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 "political system".


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 register.

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 headquarters.
  • 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.

Voter apathy

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 sufficient.
  • 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 extension.


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.


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 inciteful language.

  • 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 Karimojong raids.
  • 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% to 8%).

The April Media Report will be expanded to include radio and TV coverage of the referendum.


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.


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 activities.

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.

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