Kampala — More than 17 million registered voters are this morning expected at polling stations countrywide to pick Local Council I chairpersons in 60,800 villages after a 12-year wait.
These positions are important because, as detailed under Section 26 of the Local Government Act, 1997, the Local Councils assist in maintaining law, order and security as well as receive and solve problems or disputes in villages.
The chairpersons also conduct community sensitisation and, in some cases, identify beneficiaries of government programmes, do background check and recommend candidates for some government jobs and issue primary endorsement documents.
Mr Sam Rwakoojo, the Electoral Commission (EC) secretary, however, said last night that there will be no elections in dozens of villages, including Wakiso where Gganda Village candidate David Kizza died under suspicious circumstances; Apaa, claimed by both Adjumani and Amuru Districts; and, in Tororo where residents accosted EC officials.
EC officials assaulted
"The activities (in Tororo) were suspended right from the time of nominations of candidates for LC1 chairpersons and voting of women councils after one of the EC supervisors in Mukuju Sub-county was assaulted by some of the leaders in the county as he was conducting his duties," the district registrar, Mr Fredrick Tibakuno, said.
Residents there have been embroiled in fights following a contested attempt to divide the district.
The EC yesterday also stripped Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) which it accuses of being partisan and flouting election observation guidelines, of the rights to monitor today's and subsequent elections.
"This serves to inform you that EC has resolved to suspend the accreditation of CCEDU as partners in disseminating voter education messages and as election observers," the commission chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama, noted in a July 4 letter to CCEDU coordinator Crispy Kaheru.
In a rejoinder, Mr Kaheru last evening said the rift was a result of differences in their work methods which they hope to resolve through dialogue.
"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. This is a matter we strongly believe can be resolved through dialogue," the civil society secretariat said in a statement.
Ugandans have not elected village and parish Local Council chairpersons since 2006 on the back of a successful legal challenge by the Opposition following the country's transition from Movement system to multiparty dispensation.
Parties on the ground
The ruling NRM last night named an ad hoc team of senior officials led by the party's vice chairman, Mr Moses Kigongo, to monitor today's elections and set up a dedicated call centre at NRM secretariat in Kampala to receive nationwide updates and complaints.
Elsewhere, Opposition politician Kizza Besigye camped in Karamoja Sub-region for last-minute vote canvassing while the FDC secretary for mobilisation, Ms Ingrid Turinawe, was last night holed up in Sheema District in the west to ensure their candidates win.