Uganda Electoral Commission under pressure over 20K “ghost voters”

12 02 2016

A recent data analysis that found discrepancies in the Uganda Electoral Commission voter count has put some voters on high alert, and consequently increased the anxiety about the upcoming presidential elections.

The data on Electoral Commission (EC) had indicated that there are 15,297,197 registered voters in Uganda. On the contrary, an independent data analysis found a 20,000 voter error margin. Here is another blog showing how we exposed the discrepancies and TMS Ruge’s breakdown of the data.

The Electoral Commission was notified about the discrepancies immediately. Instead of giving a detailed account of what happened, the commission made demeaning remarks – arguing that the analysis was baseless.

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But this was not good enough for the Ugandans who were eager to know what was going on.  They continued to pressure the EC through its official Twitter account, demanding that the issue should be taken seriously. In the meantime, media houses started reporting on this issue – pressure was mounting on the commission.

The Spokes person of the commission, Jotham Taremwa finally agreed – that this was a “statistical error”.

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WHAT THE DATA ANALYSIS REVEALED:

Analysis of voter data per polling station revealed that some polling stations had way more (some over 400) voters than they should have while others had way less.

At Nkokonjeru Primary School, a polling station in Ruharo Parish, Mbarara District; the Electoral Commission data shows that there are 436 Female Voters and 359 Male Voters – the total voter count (Female + Male) =387. Once we analyzed the data, we found that 408 voters were not accounted for.

At Nyamitanga Muslim Pri Sch, in Katete Parish, Mbarara District; the data indicated that there are 247 Female Voters and 202 Male Voters – the total voter count according to the commission = 900. Our analysis found that this was NOT correct.

Ghost Voter-Mbarara

Overall I personally came to the conclusion that there are probably not just 20,000 ghost voters but many more. If the Electoral Commission indicates that there are 387 voters at a given polling station and yet when I add number of Female (436) + (359) Male voters at the same polling station I get 795 I cannot help but wonder where the commission put the missing 408.

This morning (11, February), the commission quietly took down its website and removed the document we analyzed and replaced it with a new document with changes that seem to address the concerns we had. Well, some tweeps noticed that the website was down, which forced the EC to make this lame excuse.

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FAST FORWARD

With just 5 days to the polls I am not convinced that the commission is prepared to handle emerging issues especially when they involve discrepancies.

If the commission failed to compute the sum of a couple of hundreds (as indicated above), how can they convince Ugandans that they are ready to tally millions of votes from over 28,010 polling stations country wide?

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EC went into a coma after we published a simple analysis of data they should have crosschecked and rechecked many months and weeks ago. If anything, this shows how unprepared the commission is.

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Even though the commission has finally realized that our analysis was NOT baseless (as it originally claimed) – seeing that EC has updated its data to match our figures, the manner in which they did it is unacceptable. With no explanation to the public. What is even worse, in the latest version of data, EC has eliminated the columns showing the number of Male and Female voters per polling station leaving just the total voter count per polling station.

Taking away the demographics makes it impossible for us or anyone else to do further analysis – and that is probably what the EC wants. But, this does not mean that there are no more loopholes in the voter registers.

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“Luckily”, the EC has procured handheld Biometric Voter Verification Systems and they are expected to catch any anomalies the commission might have missed. But, I have a feeling that at many of the polling stations, especially the rural ones (which are the majority in number), they will have to rely on the paper based register – because (sometimes) technology fails.

For now, I will keep crunching the voter register data as I anxiously await for the EC to deliver its promise of a “free and fair election”!





“The Baganda should test war”: Prayer of a private guard

28 11 2013

“Good morning sir, sir I was listening to the radio. These Baganda are saying that if Lukwago is impeached they are going to start a war against the government. I want a war to come to Buganda. These Baganda should test it. They think they can fight. They have never seen a war “ the guard continued.

Yesterday, the guard at my house engaged me in a 20 minutes conversation or should I say story since he did all the talking. I made a few comments here and there but mostly listening to him as he calmly poured out his anger and frustration.

This guard is the most respectful guard I have ever seen. Actually one of the most respectful Ugandans I have ever met. Until yesterday morning I couldn’t believe that this man (guard) could hold a grudge against anyone. He works for a private security company.

“Sir, I tested the war in Teso. A group of 20 plus rebels could rape your sister, wife or even mother right in front of you. And you could do nothing or you would die. Most of the women would die. I watched as relatives were slaughtered like goats. My father was a chief so he asked government to give us support and we got a lot of support. Now these Baganda are here saying they want to start a war. Let them start it. I will be on the side of the government and I will show them” the guard lamented.

I could feel the pain in his voice so to this I said, well, war is terrible. I was already thinking I am running late. I don’t know why I am listening to this conversation but I am still interested in knowing why he hates the Baganda so much.

“These Baganda are bad people. My landlady is a Muganda. A few months ago she took me to jail. I have two room at her house. One is my shop the other is my bedroom. One day she came to my shop and said, you are just a guard, how can you own a shop? Where do you get all this money? She tried to force her way in to my shop but I couldn’t let her because she was making all these allegations calling me a thief. So I pushed her out and then she tried to fight me. I didn’t know that was tricking me to beat her. I beat her seriously. That’s how I ended up in jail….” he said.

“But sir, can you imagine that this same woman also tried to trick me into marrying her daughter. She wanted me to kick my wife out so I could marry her daughter. Her daughter was even pregnant for another man. I refused! These Baganda are just thieves. They love money too much. I hate them! ” he continued.

At this point I was wondering whether he actually knows that I am a Muganda. My guess is no because he was speaking without holding back.

“Sir, these Baganda should just test war, I pray. Once they test like this, they will never open their mouth again. They are here celebrating Namugongo. That is nothing. Let me leave you so you can go to work sir. ” this time his eyes looked watery.

On my way to work I reflected on his story. I kept asking myself, how did we get to this point? Everything seems to rotate around our tribes now.

Assuming that he didn’t know that I am a Muganda, I chose not to reveal. I wasn’t sure whether this was necessary or even helpful in this situation.

I think the Baganda have “tested” some wars – Obote exiled Sir Edward Mutesa in 1966. Whether they have fought a war is a question for another day. My mom has told me some stories of the 1985 violence and the regimes before that.

Whether this guard was aware of this history, I dont know.

Even though I totally respect this guard’s opinions and was deeply touched by his story, I don’t think he is right to declare a war against the Baganda. Call me selfish but a war based on tribal segregation can get really filthy. I know so because I saw traumatizing pictures of the Rwanda genocide and the post-election violence in Kenya.





Democracy & Freedom of Expression in Uganda – A BIG JOKE!

7 08 2013

Uganda has a unique culture where people convene for anything and when people convene they talk about anything and everything – food, beer, money, corruption and politics. This happens everyday in bars, markets, mosques, churches, and weddings and along the streets.

Together with friends, we have managed to pull-off some of the most fruitful tweetups in the country. We basically convene a group of 15 to 20 tweeps at a coffee shop to discuss topical issues and inform our Twitter conversations.

Yesterday the parliament of Uganda passed the controversial Public Order Management Bill amidst serious criticism from human rights activists, opposition members of parliament and the civil society.

“The objective of the Bill is to provide for the regulation of public meetings, the duties and responsibilities of the Police, the organisers and participants in relation to public meetings; to prescribe measures for safeguarding public order without compromising the principles of democracy, freedom of association and freedom of speech.”

The Bill defines a “public meeting” as a gathering, assembly, concourse, procession or demonstration of three or more in or on any public road.

A few months ago anti-riot police was used to forcefully end two meetings – one convened by gay rights activists and another by the Black Monday Movement. Both meeting were held in closed places. This Bill posses a greater threat that police will actually continue to break into “private” spaces human rights activists use to convene meetings.

This Bill is actually NOT only the end of the road to public protest and freedom to assemble in Uganda; it also further controls people and constrains (access to) public debates. Exercising this Bill gives the government a law that will stop Ugandans from petitioning or pressuring the government.

But what does this mean for my friends and I who have always believed that tweetups are a peaceful way for young people to participate in this “democratic” process? Obviously the Bill shattered our hopes and further violates our freedom of speech and participation.

State of Freedom of Speech/ Expression in Uganda

Strong regulations and monitoring are already in place to ensure that “political” discussions are not brought to public spaces – such as public meetings, media (especially TV and Radio) extra. Especially meetings aimed at demanding government accountable or reveling the ruling party’s dirty linen to the public. In the recent past media clamped down left media houses closed for days and months.

Apparently the government is also seeking to monitor social networking spaces. Not that this was not expected. However, this is a shame because the government has so far not done a good job in investing in Internet infrastructure.

A few months ago President Museveni warned religious leaders and told (yes told not asked) them to stop talking about politics in churches or mosques.

Museveni has also branded media houses that give airtime to opposition leaders “enemies of the state”. As a result, media houses such as the Nation Media Group’s Daily Monitor have suffered the wrath of the NRM regime and trust me; they have not been the same since. “According to the semiindependent Daily Monitor newspaper….” Al Jazeera quoted in a recent article.

Last year political and human rights activists suffered serious injuries, imprisonment without trial and others charged with treason when antiriot police brutally cracked down “Walk To Work” campaign. Since then Uganda Police and Military Police have become an influential arm of the government in terms of brutalizing instead of protecting Ugandans involved in peaceful protests.

A few months ago General Aronda Nyakairima was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs. Prior to this appointment, General Aronda was Chief of Defense Forces.

President Museveni has not once or twice praised the Inspector General of Police, General Kale Kayihura as one of the most loyal NRM cadres. I think there is a conflict of interest here. Whose interests does the IGP serve; the people or the President?

Therefore it’s rather ironic that this Bill mentions “safeguarding public order without compromising the principles of democracy, freedom of association and freedom of speech.”

According to Clause 7 of this Bill, “an organizer shall give notice in writing signed by the organizer or his or her agent to the Inspector General of Police of the intention to hold a public meeting at least seven days but not more than fifteen before the proposed date of the public meeting.”

Clause 9 of the Bill states that “subject to the direction of the Inspector General of Police, an authorized officer or any other police officer of or above the rank of Inspector, may stop or prevent the holding of a public meeting”.

When you give one or two men the power to (forcefully) determine the fate of a group, you are exercising dictatorship NOT democracy.

Many Ugandans think that this Bill is part of President Museveni’s plan to oppress opposition leaders in preparation for the upcoming 2016 general elections (and beyond).

Personally, my quest to find the REAL definition of the word “Democracy” beyond the (manipulable) ballot continues.





Life in the URBAN SLUM: Kisenyi

21 02 2012

“I was born in Masajja – a Kampala surburb. My mother worked in Owino market, when I was young she used to carry me on her back every morning and bring me along to the market. Eventually I got used to Owino and found my way to the Kisenyi area. One day I walked out of the market and I didn’t return. This is how I found my way out of the market onto these streets. My mom’s workplace was no place for kids – it was boring.” a fifteen year old street kid said to me.

Often I see young boys and girls on the streets of Kampala looking shabby, starved, lost and puzzled and I wonder – where do they come from? Do they have parents? How do they end up on the streets like homeless cats or stray birds? It breaks my heart to see teens on the streets eating from the garbage, doing drugs, chasing around people; begging for UGX100 (barely a penny!) Monday through Friday when in actual sense they should be in school or their parents’ homes. Many times I have witnessed Kampala City Council Authority “enforcement officers” and Uganda Police roughing them up like wild animals – and only one question comes in my mind: Whose responsibility are these children?

Three weeks ago I found some vague answers to the above questions. I say “vague” because there is very many complicated answers to those questions!

I walked to Kisenyi – the biggest slum in Kampala with friends to do a photo shoot. The idea of the Kisenyi Photo Shoot was born by Andy Kristian (a professional photographer): to go to Kisenyi, take portraits of the people who live and/ work there, print them and then give them a copy to keep. Photos are always beautiful to take, see and keep. Together with a couple of friends (Andy Kristian, Rosebell Kagumire, Edward Echwalu, Ruth Aine, Evelyn Namara, Patricia Twino, Patricia Kahill, Joan Nagujja, Ford Tumwesigye) we went to Kisenyi – the biggest slum downtown Kampala.

It was a very hot Saturday and I got sweatier as we entered the slum. On a hot day like this you need to drink a minimum of 2 liters of water to avoid dehydration. Just like any typical slum, Kisenyi fills up the air soon as you enter the slum; smoke from burning plastic bottles, rubbish littered all over, uncensored language from the youth standing along the road side, shabby young boys and girls, sewage and groups of young men doing drugs openly.

As we entered the slum, my mind wandered 12years back; I used to walk through this slum frequently. In the year 2000 I lived on the outskirts of Kisenyi about 5 minutes walk from this slum; at the time I was only 12. Kisenyi is not just a place for street children, it’s a very commercial slum – maize millers set up their machines here. Kisenyi is the source of most of the maize flour on Kampala’s market, metal works extra. As a child I had to be careful when I walked through this slum. It was always a filthy environment to walk; also the boys and men on the streets were always aggressive. The crime rate in the slum was always high.

My recent visit to the slum (12 years later) was not very different. I could recognize most of the buildings and shortcuts. The young people (I am talking about boys and girls between the age of 4 and 25) in this slum are still doing the drugs in pubic, they don’t have access to clean water, sanitation is still very poor, they all look sweaty and dirty. How or whether they get food at all is not a question because most of them look starved.

Quick forward:

Unlike me, most of my friends had never walked through this slum. And they were all terrified by the kind of environment these young people live in. We walked into the slum carrying smart phones, expensive professional cameras, laptops, iPads and other valuables. Again, you can’t feel safe with this expensive equipment in an environment where people are starving, when young people are doing drugs around you.

Joan Nagujja a volunteer at Peace for Children in Africa together with her colleague helped us to mobile these young for the photo shoot. Peace for Children Africa is a local NGO which is helping rehabilitate and educate the street children in Uganda. One of their projects is focused on rehabilitating the street children in Kisenyi.

After about 30 minutes of mobilizing, we finally got a chance to interact with the young boys and girls who immediately put their demands before the photo shoot. Some of them said that they wanted sugar cane, money, food, water while others were bothered by the heavy presence of camera. When all that was sorted Joan’s colleague talked to a handful of strong looking boys. He told them to maintain order and that he would give them some money after the photo shoot. I was actually hoping that we could get some “big boys” to maintain some order.

Andy Kristian and Edward Echwalu did the actual shooting while I walked around taking random photos. Rosebell and Ruth recorded some of the stories. These young people told different stories on how they ended up in this place, the difficulties they were experiencing and shared some of their dreams. Some of the boys said that their step mothers mistreated/ bewitched them, while some of the young ones were born here – the slum is their home!

Even though some of the youth looked desperate and of course they had higher expectation from us; thinking that we would pay them to take their photos. Others only wanted to smile at the camera, take a few shots and leave.

Edward Echwalu (Left) and Andy Kristian (Right)

As we recorded the stories a woman who was watching from the veranda of her house asked loudly – “why aren’t you taking photos of the girls?” We would very much want to take photos of the girls, but we can’t find any big girls – we responded collectively. She immediately asked a young lady and woman to join the photo shoot. The old woman had scars on her arms she said that they were a result of domestic violence – he husband battered her.

survivor of domestic violence

The myth about slums:

Almost everybody thinks that everyone in the slums is a thief, sex worker, does drugs or has some kind of ill habits. When you go to the slum, the story is different. Well, the myth is partly true but there is more to the myth. The little beautiful children; born in the slum. Women and men work to earn a living to feed/ support their families. I remember the woman who sells sugarcane and I saw a couple of young people sorting rusty pieces of scrap to find reusable parts.

Earning a living in a slum

We can blame the government and Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) all we want but, by now we should know that the government has failed to create a better environment for the children. Let’s stop judging these children or treating them like hooligans and instead help make them better people. It’s about time we all returned to our rightful senses as human beings and find a way of help!

To these cute little children, the slum is their home!

Yes, Spiderman once lived in Kisenyi or some how a little version of his constume ended up here!

The Rest of the photos are available in my Facebook Photo Set: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151236538490381.806679.524350380&type=3&l=3551baaa04





Reflecting on 2011 – Uganda: Pictures of the year by Edward Echwalu

20 12 2011

2011 has been a great year with lots of remarkable achievements but on issues of governance I must say that, 2011 has been a very disappointing year! If you asked me, 2011 has been a year of the civil society in Uganda. The civil society has continued to show their influence and strength amidst pressure and oppression from the Uganda government. Citizen took to the streets to protest high food and commodity prices – “the Walk to Work campaign”, Civil society also protested against the government’s directive to give away part of Mabira Forest to the Sugar Cooperation of Uganda Limited. Social and Digital Media were key tools in mobilizing.

Walking a lone street, downtown Kampala. - Photo by Edward Echwalu

For many Ugandans 2011 has been full of tonnes of sad moments and memories. Memories that will probably not go away in a short time. The year started off with a lot of energy as Ugandan went to polls; to vote for the president (February, 2011). There was a big wave of anticipation – wishing that this would be the time of “change”. A time for Uganda to vote “right” and have a new president.

Question was, if Uganda voted for a new president, what would be next?

Anyways, this was was all wishful thinking – Museveni who has been president since 1986 won with a landslide victory (as usual).

Edward Echwalu a professional Ugandan photo journalist followed all of these events and his blog post gives you a comprehensive summary of the events with pictures. PICTURES OF THE YEAR 2011.





DISCONNECTED: The Digital Divide in Apac District Exposed!

24 08 2010

When the local Television channels will not broadcast without a DSTV connection, no Broadband, and no radio – except for one Community Radio! What would do you do?

Exposing the Digital Divide - Local TV NOT working, No Broadband, Just one Community Radio and Mobile Phones!

This week I am in Apac District – Northern Uganda facilitating a Website training at Kubere Information Centre (KIC) a project of Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET).

Apac town is one of the disconnected towns in Uganda. People here; need DSTV (Dish Television) to watch local TV channels. There are no telephone lines – which means you cannot access broadband internet. They only have one community Radio (Radio Apac – 92.9) – this means that the rest of the local and international radio stations wont broadcast here.

During the lunch break, we went to one of the local restaurants, the TV set is playing in DVD Move – we are watching a Nigerian movie (they are very famous here). Do you have a TV set at your house? – I asked one of my friends.  “No”, she replied. “I don’t need it, TV is only good when you can watch local TV channels. TV works very well in Lira (a neighboring district) but here, it won’t broadcast!”

Another friend I talked to said, “when I want to watch the news, I will just go to any of the local bars where they have DSTV.”

Life is very cheap and expensive here at the same time! Personally, I cannot imagine life without TV – I want to be able to watch the news on local Television when I can, I want to be able t listen to radio – both local and international (like BBC).

Information and communication technology continues to become popular in many corners of the world, even in the developing countries. Now, the Digital Divide is wider and more visible than ever!

This is not my first time in Apac but this time I have learned something new and rather very inconveniencing. But life here continues. Through out the day, I see people walking in and out of this information to read the daily newspaper, agriculture information material and to access the internet.

Its times like this that I get to appreciate the power of a mobile phone. My cellphone is working very well, and thats why I can use my Mobile Internet Dongle to access the internet via GPRS. The internet is pretty slow and unstable but at least thats the reason I am still connected  with my friends in Kampala and all around the world.

And Radio Apac ( the community radio) is really doing wonders here. Its the only working/ broadcasting FM radio station in this town. Everybody tunes into it. Last night, I tuned in to Radio Apac using my radio-enables mobile-phone. They use a mix of English and Luo (the native language here), playing some decent music and actually download a couple of podcast from Voice of America radio (VOA) and play them back for the listeners here in Apac!

Our stake holders should do better than this. The government should invest more funds in development of community radios, information centres (Telecentres) and infrastructure to facilitate communication not just in “big cities” – but also down to the grassroots.





Life at the Quarry: Made in Women of Kireka!

10 08 2010

Last weekend I took the liberty to visit the Women of Kireka (WoK) office and quarry. The quarry is located in Kireka, a Kampala suburb.

Members of WoK at work in the quarry

Some of the members of WoK at work in the quarry

Jenny and Bridget, the new Women of Kireka interns were so kind to take us (myself, Kelly and two other visitors) for a tour through WoK activities and the quarry.  🙂        It was really nice to visit this project that my friend is helping to raise funds.

Women of Kireka is a women’s cooperative jewelry business based in Kampala, Uganda. By providing business skills training,

added capital and a resilient peer group, WoK is helping its 20 members gain economic independence.  The 20 members part time at the quarry together with their children.

My friend, Siena Anstis was introduced to Women of Kireka in 2008, during her internship in Uganda. She visited the quarry and since then, she has helped women to raise funding to start a tailoring and jewelery making co-operative through social innovation.

Siena is running the Montreal Oasis Marathon on September 5th, 2010. This marathon was inspired by the need to find a way to help pay school fees for the children of the Women of Kireka. READ MORE HERE

Making jewelery (beads) out of paper

The member of WoK using a paper cutter to make jewelery (beads) out of paper

Necklesses/ Jewelery: The finished products!

Necklesses/ Jewelery: The finished products- Made in Kireka!

Visit Women of Kireka today and buy yourself some of that beautiful Jewelery you see in the pictures! Or you can BUY ONLINE to support this project. 😉

Kudos Siena and Women of Kireka for your hard work and resilience!!