By Andrew Irumba
The government of Uganda has through the Electoral Commission warned all foreign election observers against reporting live events during the forthcoming 2021 general elction.
Following the release of the 2021 election road map, several Non-Government Organizations have embarked on preparation for the polls as observers.
According Electoral Commission guidelines, the role of election observers is to study the various aspects of the elections, come up with fair judgment and make recommendations to the Commission.
But Nathaline Etomaru, the Commissioner in Charge of Central North and Midwest Regions, says some observers divert from their mandate and turn into news reporters by relaying events as they occur in the elections.
Etomaru said this wrong because the observers relay news reports without verifying them. She says EC intends to organize a workshop to remind the observers their code of conduct and guidelines, saying those who behave to the contrary will be dealt with.
John Ssegujja, the Executive Director Community Development and Child Welfare Initiative and an election observer, admitted that some observers indeed divert from their mandate and engage in news reporting. Ssegujja said that “If an observer identifies an anomaly she/ he can notify the Electoral Commission to rectify it but not going to radio stations to discredit the process.”
Last year, the EC suspended the Citizens Coalition of Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) from observing elections in the country, citing impartiality on the part of the NGO.
CCEDU always operated through social media by publishing electoral processes and malpractices through its social media platforms, something that didn’t go down well with the Commission.
They were also source of information for various media houses that relied on their live reports about the election, which rubbed government the bad way by exposing several of the EC’s weakenesses.
Justice Simon Byabakama, the EC Chai chaiperson, reached an extent of accusing CCEDU of allegedly being partisan and acting outside the election observance guideline as set by the Electoral Commission.
But Crispy Kaheru, the national coordinator CCEDU, said that whereas CCEDU believes in exposing good practices and shortcomings to ensure a free and fair election, the EC believes that CCEDU should merely document and share findings. However, the matter was resolved through dialogue prompting EC to lift the ban on CCEDU.