Panel 16. Compromising Democratic Governance in Africa, through Vote Rigging, Bribery, Vote Buying, Ignorance, Weak Civil Society and Disorganised Opposition Political Parties – Uganda as a Case Study

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One of the key challenges in the democratization process of most Africa countries are the general elections conducted periodically, where the populace presumably gets a chance of democratically choosing their leaders at all levels. However, the process has been slowed down by social determinants like poverty, illiteracy, manipulation and opportunitism. Key players are the State, the population, political parties and civil societies.

In Uganda, the state is responsible for arranging and conducting the elections through the establishment of the electoral commission, appointed by the president. Since 2001 when multi-party elections were reintroduced the opposition has consistently claimed that the elections were massively rigged in favour of the Ruling party.

The majority of the rural based population is faced with poverty, illiteracy and ignorance of their civil rights. They are torn between having their cake and eating it at the same time.

The opposition has been rendered completely powerless, through denied financing from the state as directed by the national constitution, restricted financing from the donors, and direct refusal by the state for the opposition to conduct campaigns for party membership recruitment.  Politicians across party lines have also resorted to lying and bribing the population for the votes, contributing to the already worsening electoral process in the country.

The civil society organizations are caught up in the middle and because of their lack of cohesion on advocacy and lobby activities front; their efforts have not been felt in the democratization process.

The cardinal question here then, is who is misbehaving and behaving among the players, is it the state, the population, the opposition and or the civil society? The panel will be discussing the individual player’s role in the election process.


1. The Civil Society Organizations Caught Up In “To Be or Not Be” Quagmire in Providing Civic Education to Masses

Author: Patricia Alaroker (Makerere University, Uganda)


The history of civil society organizations in Uganda dates back to the colonial days where the colonial government expanded the Legislative Council (LC) to include more Africans, this provided space for the agitation of different interests and up to date, Uganda’s legislations provide for sufficient space for the formation and operation of civil societies and the transmission of civic education by both governmental and nongovernmental organizations; this notwithstanding the recent restrictions that have occurred on nongovernmental civil societies and whether the space for providing civic education is actually being utilized. This paper will examine civil society organizations in Uganda in relation to their core duty in providing civic education to masses. It will urge out the immense importance of civic education as a prerequisite for a functional democracy and upholding of human rights principles. It will also examine cross cutting issues within and outside civil society organizations in relation to civic education provision; the fact that civic education aims at creating individuals with the capacity to go beyond citizens who are just passive subjects of the state, to those who are well informed and responsible and that it should equip citizens with skills and knowledge to participate and contribute to the development and maintenance of democratic governance and citizenship which eventually leads to the establishment of a stable democratic political system will be examined. Conclusively, despite the available space and enabling legislation in Uganda for civil society organizations, civic education has not been accorded the importance it deserves as evidenced by lack of awareness about rights by majority Ugandan citizens and that civil society organizations in Uganda have not collectively and consistently demanded for the curtailed space which puts them in to be or not to be state of quagmire in providing civic education to masses.


Author: Kaliija James (Youth in Leadership Forum, Uganda)


Democratization has increasingly become an important aspect of governance among African states with a noticeable increasing number as well as dwindling dominance of single party states and Presidential Monarchies. Even though periodic democratic elections have to a great extent become a dominant tool towards change of government in Africa, the fusion of state institutions with government and the executive authority, ethnicity, weak civil society continue to derail multiparty democracy in most African Countries. 
The paper will examine the role of the state as a cross cutting player in elections in Africa taking a case study of Uganda while recognizing the fact that Ugandan Government and the opposition are in agreement that regular elections are a most legitimate way of changing government, but the desire by government to put in place independent state institutions to guide the process and build citizen confidence is still low. The paper will review the Electoral Commission as a mandated state institution to organize and manage democratic elections in Uganda and highlights concrete examples of fusion of state institutions with the ruling government as well as the presidency hence frustrating this constitutional mandate of the electoral body in delivering free and fair electoral outcomes in the country.
The paper will distinguish the state as a key player in elections, and make propositions including constitutional amendments that will; iron out the aspects of state fusion with government, reduce constitutional powers of the President and recommend a competitive process for appointment of members to the Electoral Commission which would build citizens confidence, ensure their protection and happiness.


Author: Nakweede Harriet (Women League, Uganda)


Voter rights and civic education forms the basis of any democratic process. It encourages citizens to participate fully in the political life of a country committed to the fundamental values and principles of democracy.
Civic and voter education equips people with knowledge and capabilities to check blind obedience through scrutinizing orders and directives down loaded to them. It also helps to control how leaders use authority and power at their disposal and make them run their affairs from informed positions.
Different players have played roles in educating voters on their rights as well as creating civic awareness. This helps voters to know rules that govern elections including, how to check and assess the voters list, how and where to lodge a complaint or file an appeal, what needs to be monitored during and after  campaign period, among others.
 Although voter education is assumed to be non-partisan activity, political parties should be allowed to participate in educating their supporters and the electorate about their rights. In addition parties may have limited capacity especially in transitional societies like Uganda where the resources and abilities of political parties are unbalanced.
It is proposed that the National Electoral Commission and Civil Society Organizations should pursue programs that sensitize masses about their rights to vote. Manuals, campaign brochures, Talk shows, workshops among others should be organized to enable the population make decisions from informed positions. This however is hindered by the poor financing systems, high levels of illiteracy and the poor reading culture of the population.
This paper will discuss the extent to which voter rights and civic education have been conducted in Uganda, the roles of voter rights and civic education towards the democratization process, and how different players converge to the realization of voter rights including those of the population.


Author: Otukei Richard Emmy (Forum for Democratic change, Uganda)


A key component of a democratic system is the capacity of political actors to fulfill their functions and ensure their effective performance. Thus, in order to examine the state of democratic governance in Uganda, an assessment on the level of organisation of the political parties as central actors in the democratic process is important. This is the principle objective of this paper.
 As the first part of this discussion, this paper will briefly highlight the political history of Uganda and evolution of political parties and their subsequent roles in shaping this political history. Three questions will guide the discussion as to critically assess the level of organization within opposition political parties in Uganda.
1.    Do the political parties in the opposition have the capacity to win government power from the ruling party in a democratic process?
2.    How far do the political parties in their present form meet the minimum requirements to be able to establish and sustain a government?
3.    Do the opposition parties present any clear programmatic proposals for effective governance?

This paper will further examine the extent to which the political opposition in Uganda can be considered a better alternative for democratic governance by analysing the existing weaknesses and strengths of the opposition parties as well as their political ambitions - alternative opposition proposals for effective governance. Finally this paper will suggest alternative ways through which the opposition can employ so as to organize and or strengthen the organisation of their political parties.

5. From Passive to Active Political Actors: Re-booting the “Public Opinion Mind” for Political Change in Africa

Author: Lusike Lynete Mukhongo (Moi University Kenya)


Public discourses on governance in Africa, often portray Africans as victims and their leaders as oppressors; however critical questions need to be asked about the role of citizens as voters with reference to governance. The role of citizens in relation to the current state of governance in Africa will be discussed, guided by the following questions: What is the perception of voters in Africa towards elections and governance? Do voters have power to steer social and political change through elections (active actors) or are elections a mere sham (passive actors)? What is the role of citizens in re-booting public opinion for a paradigm shift in governance in Africa? Further discussion will be on the role of voters in a state controlled and elite dominated electioneering process. Often, scholars have pointed out that elections are a precursor to good governance in Africa, yet even in cases of free and fair elections, persons elected to hold political office have often been persons of questionable character and their legitimacy been held in disrepute by the civil society, media and sometimes the international community. While it has been assumed that if citizens appropriate the power that lies in the ballot box, then Africa as a continent can overcome the myriad problems that face it, it is paramount to note that due to various factors Africans have become victims of the very electoral process that is meant to liberate them. Focus therefore is on discussing the role of citizens vis-ā-vis the state through a detailed discussion of case studies from countries such as Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa.


Author: Shina Babatope and Samuel Olugbemiga Afolabi (Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria)


At the dawn of a new democratic era in 1999, many expected a lot of democratic dividends from a civil rule. But those expectations has since not been fulfilled. Many have been quick to apportion the greater blame for this on the civil society who should be the go- between the state and the people. Yet a careful reading and examination of the history of Nigeria shows a symbiotic relationship between the State and Civil Society Organizations. At best, it was a relationship of mutual suspicion and at worst, a relationship of open antagonism.  However, not many works carefully explains these facts and the changing ways in which the state now relates the civil society in Nigeria. This paper therefore,  using both primary and secondary data, examines various issues in state –civil society relations in Nigeria by categorizing civil society groups in Nigeria and examining how and ways in which the state engages and disengages them and its negative implications on democratic governance and sustenance.


Author: Sabiti Makara PhD (Makerere University, Uganda)


In a truly democratic or democratizing state, competitive politics is governed by specific rules of the game.  In Uganda, the rules of the game are blatantly bent, titled or done way with in favour of the ruling elite.  One of the frequently broken rules is the illegal use of money to influence public opinions and the voters.  The ruling party in Uganda uses tax-payers’ money to influence the trend of votes.  Not only are public services faulty, the little that exists, is used as for political patronage.  The top political leadership has been reported handing out ‘brown envelopes’ and sacks containing money to specific groups.  State jobs are created and set aside for “politically-correct” individuals. Resources that would provide public services are spent on such political patronage. Opposition is terrorized by state institutions.
Although there is a law to regulate funding of political parties, it has largely been ignored.  Moreover, the use of public resources for political campaigns has now reached critical levels, with members of Parliament directly receiving cash from Government Chief Whip to campaign for ‘Museveni – alone’ in 2016 election.  The debate is raging about the sources of such monies. Is it from public coffers or from the ruling party?  With no one ready to give an answer, speculation reigns. Given that in Uganda, the ruling party and the State are inseparable, it remains a mere wish that a fair ground for all political competitors can be achieved. More than that kleptocracy destroys the moral fibre of society and undermines democratic ideals. The key research question, then is: How can democratisation of society be advanced in Uganda under such a kleptocracy?

8. Constitutions that create a “presidential monarchy” are a mockery to the democratization processes in African countries

Author: Massy Moses Kasule (NGOs Consulting Group, Uganda)


After attaining independence, most African countries become Republics and their constitutions were designed to follow constitutions of other Republics in developed countries like France, with respect to basic human and civil rights and enhancing democracy as the French one.
Unique about the constitutions of the Africa countries is the fact that the head of state is not only ceremonial but also head of government and in most cases the individual elected as president comes from the winning political party.
Most African countries constitutions give the elected president a lot of executive powers, without adequate checks and balances.
In France, under the Third and Fourth Republic, which were parliamentary systems, the office of President of the Republic was a largely ceremonial and powerless one. The constitution of the current Fifth Republic greatly increased the President's powers, but with checks and balances.
In Uganda, 75% of Uganda’s Constitution gives the President authority to appoint all public officers, to propose how to use the National Treasury, to propose Bills for parliament to pass, to consent or not,  to change the constitution and indeed become a “Presidential monarchy”. Of the 19 Chapters of the Constitution, 13 empower the President to give, deny or take away!
After a few years in power the president decided to entrench himself and his party in power, creating a fusion of his political party and the state apparatuses with the subsequent control of all state institutions. Opposition political parties and the voters have been rendered useless and the democratization process futile.
One school of thought says that, fraudulent elections are not the problem of Uganda but a consequence of the patronage system created by the Constitution of Uganda. It concludes that it is very vital now to focus to where the problem begins: “Constitutions that allows fusion of the State, government (Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary) and the party in power”.

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