Uganda: Aruu North By-Election Violence

The 6th of April 2017 is a dark day for most citizens in Northern Uganda, following the nullification of their Member of Parliament, Hon. Achiro Lucy’s election results in February of the previous year. His counterpart from the ruling party, Hon. James Kidega, says the February 2016 election was rigged with two votes in favor of the incumbent Hon. Achiro Lucy, who hails from the Independent party. Earlier this year, this matter was forwarded to the High Court in Kampala. The Court made a ruling and asked the electoral commission to organize a by-election to take place in April. This was done as ruled by the Court and unfortunately; the day seems unfit and scary.

This morning, the Aruu North by-election was marred by election violence from both the ruling National Resistant Movement (NRM) and the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). The tight race is between NRM’s James Kidega, and Lucy Achiro, an independent but FDC leaning candidate. The situation turned chaotic in the afternoon when supporters of the two candidates attacked one another. The first incident was in Atanga Sub County, where the FDC mobilizer, Kerry Komakech and Achiro’s agent, identified as Walter Oringa, were attacked by suspected NRM supporters. The two were beaten severely and admitted to Atanga Health III for medical treatment. A case of assault has also been reported at Angagura police station. The Electoral Commission Spokesperson Jonathan Taremwa, who visited the victims in the hospital, condemned this violent action and promised to settle the matter. Dr. Kenneth Omona, the Deputy NRM treasurer who is also in Aruu, says his party promotes peaceful election and promised to investigate the matter and take appropriate disciplinary action against its culprits.

Since May 9th, 1996, similar violence has been witnessed in all of Uganda’s elections. This violence remains a popular ingredient of both national and local elections in the whole of Eastern Africa and Uganda, in particular. The previous presidential and parliamentary elections in Uganda (2000, 2006, 2011 and 2016) bear testimony to this effect. The consequent election petitions for both presidential and parliamentary hopefuls cannot be under-estimated. The 2010 National Resistance Movement (NRM) party primaries have reportedly painted a gloomy picture on the quality of national elections that Uganda expects to conduct.

Self-seeking politicians in the region have continued to shatter the voting power (disfranchisement) among voters in Uganda. This is presented, as it seems more prevalent, through the rejection of some voters by not counting their votes, counting the favored votes multiple times, creating ghost voters/ polling stations, loss of lives among voters, unwarranted imprisonments, voter intimidation (by politicians and/or the security agencies), manipulation of constitutional arrangements (plus deliberate delays in passing the electoral bills by parliament) and outright electoral rigging, manifested through varied dimensions. Consequently, the electoral power and the type of relationship the electors have with the people they elect remain absurd – voter turnout, especially in areas dominated by the opposition, remains low compared to the eligible electorate.

Therefore, if the concern of electoral violence is not comprehensively dealt with, realizing a peaceful post-election climate may remain hypothetical. Consequently, the vacuum of an efficacious legal avenue for voters to voice out their views could spark a terrible toll. The above observations provoke the question of the effect of voter behavior on electoral violence in Uganda.