“No funds for women council elections”- Electoral Commission
On February 18 2022, the Electoral Commission issued a roadmap detailing the programme for elections of Women councils and committees. To date, the commission has finalized the compilation of the Village Women’s resident register and display at village/ cells country-wide.
SecretsKnown has learned of the impromptu and unfair suspension of the said elections in a press statement issued by Uganda Electoral Commission dated June 24, 2022. The Electoral Commission opines that it received communication from the Ministry of Finance informing them of unavailability of funds to conduct election activities.
According to the Electoral Commission Act, Cap 140 PART VI 50 (1), the commission is given special powers and grounds to postpone an election only under such terms:
Where, during the course of an election, it appears to the commission that by reason of any mistake, miscalculation, emergency, or unusual or unforeseen circumstances any of the provisions of this Act or any law relating to the election, other than the Constitution, does not accord with the exigencies of the situation, the commission may, by particular or general instructions extend the time for doing any act…”
SecretsKnown knows for a fact that elections were not an emergency situation or an unusual unforeseen circumstance. The Electoral Commission and by extension the Ministry of Finance, knew more than two years ago that this election would take place and should have planned and made resources available for this.
These elections would have cost at least UGX 35 billion ($9.3 million) according to the Commission. Ironically, government can make available money for payment of UGX 40 million ($10,666) to each Member of parliament in a house of 529 legislators, procure luxurious vehicles for the Speaker of parliament and her deputy and as well fund operation Shujja in DRC among many others but cannot find the UGX 35 billion for the Women Councils and committee’s elections.
The postponement of these elections till further notice is a mockery to Uganda’s nascent democracy, citizenry, and other stakeholders. SecretsKnown has learned that before 2018 when the elections were last held, they had not been held for over 15 years and have once again been postponed. This action has exposed government’s considered priorities and its level of commitment on democratic principles.
SecretsKnown has established that the National Women’s Council Act provides for a four-year term of office for the Women councils from the date of its inception. Schedule 2 reads as follows:
“…subject to this act, every Women council and Women committee shall remain in office for four years from the date of its inception after which it shall automatically elapse and dissolve…”
As per this provision, the country shall soon not have Women councils and committees because the four-year term elapses this August 2022.
SecretsKnown shares sentiments with stakeholders particularly political parties and candidates that will now face financial loss since they had already spent massively in intensive mobilization and country-wide campaigns in a highly commercialized political environment such as ours. The suspension/ postponement is a big setback for political actors and portrays loopholes in governance issues in the country.
This suspension of the elections also defeats the purpose and role of women committees both at local and national level. Democracy is not cheap and comes with a cost and lections are the heart of democracy; they allow citizens/ voters to have a voice in management of their public affairs. Therefore, government’s pretext of unavailability of funds is lame, unjust, unconstitutional and a mockery that deserves to condemnation in the strongest terms.