Benedicto Kiwanuka Memorial Lecture 2015

What needs to be done to avert the risk of election violence before, during and after the 2016 general elections in Ugan

Every year, KAS in cooperation with the Foundation for African Development organizes the Benedicto Kiwanuka Memorial Lecture. This year, it will focus on the possibility of and counterstrategies to election violence in 2016.


The late Benedicto Kiwanuka was the first Prime Minister of Uganda and leader of the internal self-government before independence, former Chief Justice of Uganda (1971-1972), and former President of Democratic Party (DP). He is acknowledged as a statesman who selflessly promoted democracy, justice and rule of law in Uganda.

Kiwanuka believed in Aristotle’s more than 2000 year old statement that “The rule of law is better than that of any individual.". He pursued justice for all, even in times of dictatorship, as it was the case when Idi Amin ruled Uganda in 1971 to 1979. In the course of that pursue, Kiwanuka openly opposed the 90 day order by Idi Amin to expel all Indians from Uganda as unconstitutional. During his time as Chief Justice his last attempt at restoring the rule of law, was to accept, to hear the case of a British National and Businessman who had been held incommunicado in Makindye Military Barracks on the orders of General Amin. Kiwanuka issued a court order that required that the British national be brought into court. He acquitted him on grounds that the army had no powers to detain a civilian. By that bold action in defence of rule of law the Chief Justice had allegedly angered Amin, and according to some experts signed his own death warrant.

Benedicto Kiwanuka was abducted from his chambers in the High Court, apparently by security agents, and has never been seen again. Up until today he supposedly lies somewhere in an unmarked grave.

The Foundation for African Development (FAD) with the support of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) organizes a lecture in memory of the late Ben Kiwanuka on an annual basis. The objective of the lecture is to keep the memory of Kiwanuka alive and to remember his unwavering commitment to human rights, justice, and democracy in Uganda.

FAD is an indigenous Political Think Tank Foundation, which was established in 1979 with the overall goal to rejuvenate and promote democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights after the Idi Amin dictatorial rule had disrupted the political fabric of Uganda. The Foundation organizes public dialogues to provide platforms to key actors in the governance sector to engage on important national issues with a view to influencing the shaping and implementation of public policies.

FAD enjoys partnership and association with different organizations in different development aspects and has in particular had a partnership of over 30 years with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), a German Political Foundation engaged in promoting democracy, human rights, and rule of law worldwide. Together, FAD and KAS have implemented a series of high-level lectures in the memory of Benedicto Kiwanuka.

The theme for this year’s dialogue aims to address the risks of election violence in the forth coming general elections in Uganda in 2016 and to promote democracy through free and fair elections based on the observation by Kofi Annan: “Elections with integrity are the foundation of democracy. (…) When elections are flawed they corrode public trust, and in severe cases can endanger democracy and even lead to conflict.”

The dialogue will address the following question;

“What needs to be done to avert the risk of election violence before, during and after the 2016 general elections in Uganda”?

As Uganda prepares for general elections in 2016, we have fresh history, both negative and positive, to take lessons from. One is the Kenya experience and the horror that followed in 2007 and 2008, but also from the positive election outcome in 2012 and 2013 in the same country. The second is the Uganda case in 2011, where relatively peaceful elections were followed by walk-to-work uprising that resulted into violent clashes between the police/military and Col. Kizza Besigye’s supporters.

Some observers were quick to interpret the campaign as a political ploy by the opposition group to oust a “legitimately” elected government through an Egyptian or Libyan-like revolution, especially given the fact that the Walk to Work campaign and the popular dissent occurred barely a month after the conclusion of an election period marred by police intimidation and voters bribery but overall viewed as relatively calm. Other recent positive examples include the Nigerian elections in 2015.

The Uganda Electoral commission is in advanced stages of preparing the country for the general elections in 2016. While the prayer of all peace loving stake holders should be that the forth coming general elections should bolster the much desired democracy and enhance an environment that promotes peaceful and harmonious co-existence independently of political ideology or belonging, fear is also looming in the air about the risk of possible election violence. That fear is precipitated by the deliberate and unprecedented levels of preparedness for violence, exhibited through open recruitments and training of militias by the government agencies and individual politicians. Several youth brigades are reportedly being recruited and trained not only by government but by some opposition politicians as well, with unclear agenda and means of achieving their goals. Fears are high that the youth brigades are being prepared to unleash terror on the citizens of Uganda during the forth coming elections.

Additionally, while the ruling party (NRM) is already assuring supporters of retaining power, the expectations among the opposition forces for regime change, are unprecedentedly high this time round. It is not clear how the opposition would manage the disappointment in the event that their expectations are not realized.

Due to these developments but also when looking at the positive example from the region, the questions which way Uganda will take, what needs to be done to ensure peace, and who will be the actors deciding on peace or violence need to be answered urgently.

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Politicians and Academics Make Strong Call for Judicial Resolution Rather than Election Violence: Benedicto Kiwanuka Memorial Lecture 2015
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Maike Messerschmidt

Maike Messerschmidt bild

Programme Officer

Maike.Messerschmidt@kas.de +256 312 262011/2