By Abdallah Sekibembe
Next year’s election has generated strong interest from a number of people vying for political positions. Also as is practice, it has caused creation and introduction of new electoral offices in the country.
As a democratic process, elections in Uganda are conducted after every five years and as a right, citizens belonging to the adult suffrage have the mandate to exercise their will on who and how they should be governed.
The country enjoys a history of elections and like other any African country, has been filled by a number of challenges which have potentially affected the election outcome. Challenges presented include but are not limited to; low voter turn up, excessive invalid votes, voter bribery and voting based on tribal, social and religious affiliation.
These factors arise mainly from the inadequate civic and voter education which is considered pertinent before conduct of any election. Voter education is essential for both the voter and the candidate and majorly consists of sensitization and education of the voter on his or her rights, responsibilities and roles played in an election process as well as the impact of such voting right or choice. This duty therefore rests with the Uganda electoral commission as contained under the Constitution and the Electoral commission Act.
While voter-education handbooks, advertisements and notices are in place, more effort should be extended towards informing citizens on the importance of their voting right while placing special consideration on the credibility of the candidate.
Present reports show that most voters possess limited or no knowledge of the basic electoral processes and electoral office duties while others are simply unwilling to take part in the exercise.
This gap leads to the inevitable result of having incompetent persons ending up in leadership roles. This negatively affects the governance, policies and decisions of the government. A person voted for on sectoral or financial grounds is unlikely to deliver and perform than one voted for merit basis.
Voter education equally prepares and equips the candidate with knowledge of the office they are vying for. The present campaigns demonstrate a failure among many candidates most of whom are ignorant of the office responsibilities they are standing for combined with the fact that many tend to promise beyond the limits these offices. This creates a disservice not only to the voter’s will but also to the nation at large. A country where the voter and the candidate are both ignorant of the electoral specifics and necessities is one where poor decision making coupled with underperformance is the norm.
Therefore, with an adequate spread and facilitation of civic and voter education among all Ugandans, their will and power as contained under Article 1 of the Constitution is safely protected.
The writer is young lawyer with an all-round interest in all fields of law.