The Commonwealth Independent Observer Mission, one of the international election observer groups that watched last February 18 presidential and parliamentary elections has released its final report condemning Uganda government’s unwillingness to implement suggested reforms which resulted into a sham election.
The judgment reflects intransigence on the part of the government, which contradict the often repeated mantra that NRM government as one that represents Steady progress.
The observer mission, which was led by former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo, concluded that the elections that ended with the announcement of incumbent President Yoweri Museveni as the winner, “fall well short of meeting many of the key democratic benchmarks for the conduct of credible elections”.
Obasanjo adds that: “We have strong concerns that many of the administrative and operational processes undertaken during the electoral cycle were flawed, to the extent that the election results cannot be said to ascertain fully the true will of the people of Uganda. Such concerns also extend to the restrictions placed on the free movement of key opposition members and their supporters at all stages of the elections,”
The above verdicts by the Commonwealth observer mission has been interpreted by many political analysts to mean that Uganda’s most recent polls were a sham. But the commonwealth group expressed disappointment that the situation would have been avoided had the government considered and implemented recommendations offered by previous Commonwealth missions.
The group says the elections were riddled with increased prevalence of money in politics, the misuse of state resources and, the competence, credibility and the ability of the Electoral Commission to manage the process effectively.
“All these concerns reflect those of the Commonwealth Observer Group in 2011. We wish to convey our profound disappointment that none of the previous recommendations have been substantively addressed,” writes Obasanjo in the forward to the report.
The comment appears to dampen hopes for positive change arising from fresh recommendations by the report.
Nonetheless, the group calls for a code of conduct for political parties, regulations stipulating expenditure ceilings on campaigns, and legislation limiting the use of State resources.
“More stringent and explicit regulations limiting the use of state resources for campaign purposes should be introduced, thereby helping to create a more level playing field for the elections,” the report states.
In addition, the report calls for both state-controlled and private media to be held to the standards of the Professional Code of Ethics and the Electoral Commission’s Media Guidelines, “particularly the need for impartiality and equitable coverage for all candidates”.