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Remove national EC From Managing LCI Elections…1

By Ofwono Opondo

Aug, 24, 16
There is continued hubris over the failure by government to organise and hold elections of the village , otherwise known as Local Council  One (LC1) leaders since 2001, mainly on account of the huge cost, now standing at 57bn /= Uganda shillings, as computed by the national Electoral Commission (EC), led by Eng. Badru Kiggundu.  The usual fickle opposition, this week opportunistically tried to raise the matter in parliament and casting doubt on the democratic credentials of this government as if the opposition has any plausible chances of victory in those elections. At least, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party only late last held primaries for its flag-bearers in all the sixty thousand (60,000) recognised villages, while no other party has managed that feat!
But, I think, as a country we have found ourselves boxed into this position because of being very incompetent copy-cats, extreme partisans with unqualified suspicion against each other, commercialized elections, and above all, over centralization of whatever we want to do. If we removed the EC from organizing, funding and running LC1 elections, except providing the voters’ register, these elections would be a local community affair and therefore much cheaper.
Already, LC1 leaders actually continue to exist and their services used with or without fresh elections as every Ugandan possibly knows because they are recognised at our village functions such as marriage and funerals, land transactions, and even during presidential and parliamentary campaigns. And although some opposition MPs would want to call the current LC1 leaders obsolete and illegitimate, everyone knows they cannot transport and bury their dead without informing the LC1 leaders in their respective villages. Indeed the majority cannot enter a commercial transition without the presence of LC1 officials, otherwise you could end up in serious peril. All local disputes are first reported to, handled and mediated by LC1 officials. In fact, the Central and Local Government systems all rely on the written advise of these ‘obsolete’ and ‘illegitimate’ LC1 officials on such issues as land verification and compensation when major public works are being undertaken, as well as constructing national data banks like the recent national voter and national identity card registration, National Housing and Population Census, and the on-going distribution of mosquito nets and Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) inputs.
So, I think, rather than lambasting government and engaging in unhelpful acrimony, parliament should amend the Electoral Commission Act, and Local Government Act, to refine and limit the role of the EC only to providing the voters’ registers to the villages. LC1 elections should a be local community affair where residents simply gather  and use cheap and transparent methods to chose and remove the leaders they prefer, or those who haven’t performed to expected standards as regularly as they wish.  
The respective villages, monitored by RDCs, Chief Administrative Officers, political parties and civil society organisatiosns can deliver credible LC1 elections. Villages, especially in rural settings, are small-knit communities, where everyone knows everybody else, and as such political partisan interests are well known hence secrecy in balloting isn’t really that much necessary. Also, LC1 officials, handle, on a daily basis inter-personal conflicts among their residents, and therefore perhaps don’t have to run a five year term especially if they are either of bad manners, or non-performing.
It is always necessary to remember that wherever necessary and possible, we should fit within our national means rather than borrow or cause paralysis as the case of LC1 elections is today. In 1986 around July, when the NRM had just come into power after the five year “Protracted Peoples’ War,” the new government directed all villages to hold elections of nine committee members (leaders) each under what was then known as Resistance Committees (RCs). Indeed those elections were successfully held throughout the country except in some parts of Northern Uganda, West Nile and Teso where war still continued.
When the entire country was liberated, the elections were repeated in 1987, and again in 1988 under the Resistance Statute. Uganda did not have an Electoral Commission (EC) at the time, and so these elections were organised by the ministry of Local Government, and Special District Commissioner (SDAs), the equivalent of today’s Resident District Commissioners (RDCs). These elections were by standing behind the candidates in the open ground and so bribery, intimidation and other forms of electoral malpractices were minimal.
Later, in February 1989, the then interim legislature (Parliament), the National Resistance Council (NRC) of 38 Historical members was expanded through the election of 173 county representatives, and a woman from each of the then thirty-nine districts.  RCII, II and IV committee level formed the Electoral College for NRC member (MPs), while RCIV (county) committees in each district formed the Electoral College for the woman MP.
Uganda was able to hold those elections when it did not have as much money, qualified personnel, government systems, information platforms, and technology infrastructure as is today. I do believe, that with a little bit of modesty and mutual goodwill even within the context of competitive multiparty dispensation, Uganda can hold successful and relatively cheaper LC1 elections on time and regularly.