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The Involvement of the Armed Forces in Uganda’s Electoral Process Takes Centre Stage at Masaka Dialogue

Public Dialogue on Political Pluralism and Democracy

The Uganda People’s Defence Forces’ (UPDF) involvement in the electoral process dominated discussions at a public dialogue on “overcoming the challenges to political pluralism and democracy” in Masaka District, Oct. 15.

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UPDF is Uganda’s national army. Participants expressed concern that the army continues to engage in elections “usually in a partisan manner”. The dialogue organised by KAS involved representatives of civil society, political parties, media the electoral commission and the UPDF.

The Masaka district dialogue has been part of a series organised by KAS in seven districts across the four major regions of Uganda. The dialogues are aimed at providing a platform for district level actors to discuss mechanisms for overcoming the challenges to political pluralism and democracy.

A recent KAS-supported assessment by civil society actors, local councillors and journalists established that several challenges still impede the possibility of genuine multi-party democracy being practiced at the local level. Among the challenges established in the perception-based-assessment is the existence of a feeling among local citizens that “they are not entirely free to enjoy their political rights and freedoms”. This was attributed in part to the involvement of the armed forces in political processes including the forcefully stopping public assemblies organised by political parties and involvement of the electoral process.

UPDF Political Commissar for Masaka Armoured Brigade Elijah Mwesigye, however, emphasised that the UPDF is a non-partisan force which does not take sides in the elections. He pointed out in incidences where army officers have been seen at electoral related activities, it has always been at the invitation of the police – to assist in guaranteeing security. “While it is not deniable that there can be indiscipline officers within the army, there also exist platforms for reporting such soldiers and getting then disciplined”. He noted. “Each soldier for example has a nametag….if any one sees a soldier in an incident of indiscipline (electoral malpractice) record the soldier’s name and report to the concerned authorities. Such as soldier will be dealt with (by the army) as stipulated in the UPDF code of conduct.

These concerns come at time when the 2011 electoral season has already started with nomination of presidential and parliamentary candidates barely weeks away.

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Hotel Brovad, Masaka


Peter Girke

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UPDF Masaka Armoured Brigade Political Commissar Lt. Elijah Mwesige stresses a point during the dialogue at Hotel Brovad, Masaka -

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