The Women’s Situation Room Uganda opened on 11th January 2021 in Kampala at the Sheraton Hotel, in Gulu at the Churchill Hotel, in Mbarara at Hotel Triangle and in Soroti at Timisha Hotel led by 21 Eminent Women from Uganda, Ghana, Lesotho, Liberia, Nigeria and Kenya.
The Women’s Situation Room (WSR) is a non-partisan early warning and rapid response mechanism against election-related violence or conflicts in Africa. In 30 districts within the Northern, Eastern, Central and Western regions, 3,000 WSR-trained women and youth leaders have promoted peace and de-escalated tensions within their communities. 1,500 trained WSR women election observers observed the polling process and along with the public, reported incidents likely to trigger violence to the WSR call centre through the Toll Free Lines. Eminent Women engaged with key election stakeholders before polling day, observed the voting process and worked with the Electoral Commission, Uganda Police Force and Uganda Peoples’ Defense Force to ensure timely response to reported incidents and to promote peaceful elections.
We appreciate the support of the Ugandan people who through the WSR have sought to report and resolve election related incidents peacefully.
Since 13th January 2021, the Women’s Situation Room Uganda has received and dealt with 1,778 calls through the call centre in consultation with the Electoral Commission, Uganda Police Force and UPDF. These were associated with election-related logistical challenges, reported election malpractices, ignorance or misinformation among voters and polling officials regarding procedures and regulations, intimidation and violence. 40% of the calls sought information on the electoral process and included general inquiries.
Eminent Women observed at polling stations in Kampala, Soroti, Gulu and Mbarara and found the following:
· The Electoral Commission, security personnel and the voters were peaceful and committed to exercising their rights peacefully
· Malfunctioning biometric machines and late or incomplete delivery of voting materials delayed the start of the voting process.
· Anxiety among voters whose names were not on the register and those who did not collect voter location slips. In some polling stations citizens without IDs were not allowed to vote.
· Hand washing facilities and masks were not seen at the polling stations, in some cases. However, COVID-19 prevention procedures such as social distancing were not followed as there was crowding when the numbers of voters increased. Some stations did not have water even when they had water containers. Biometric machines were not sanitised between uses.
· In polling stations within the East and Northern regions, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with disabilities did not receive priority assistance to vote at the front of the queue.
· The presence of armed security persons at polling stations was intimidating.
· Presiding officers amicably handled the participation of the public in the counting of votes and got consensus on invalid ballots.
We congratulate Ugandans, particularly the youth, for exercising their right to vote. We also commend the Electoral Commission for the notable improvements in delivery and management of the elections. We acknowledge the need for individuals and institutions to address issues observed at this point of the electoral cycle, before the next elections.
We therefore recommend
· Expanded voter education programmes to reach citizens and communities.
· Adequate training of polling officials to adapt to increasing use of technology in elections.
· Provision of a voting booth to ensure secrecy of the ballot.
· Harness and build on the active participation of the youth in the country’s political and electoral processes.
· Government and civil society organisations to train more women and youth observers and support the active participation of WSR- trained youth and women Peace Advocates and Election Observers across the electoral cycle and in peace building
We appeal to
· Government, security agencies and politicians to embrace a culture of peace and tolerance.
· Government and the relevant authorities to expeditiously address the issues associated with the arrests of civil society members and the restrictions to their operations.
We appreciate the support from the Uganda Police Force, Uganda People’s Defence Forces, the Electoral Commission, and the district Local Governments who provided their personnel to work with us in addressing incident reports in Gulu, Kampala, Mbarara and Soroti.
The WSR Call Centre and Toll-Free line 0800 333 433 is still open and will continue to receive reports throughout the forthcoming Local Government Elections.
WSR was established during the 2011 Liberian elections and has since been successfully replicated in Senegal (2012), Sierra Leone (2012 and 2018), Kenya (2013), Nigeria (2015), Ghana (2016 and 2020), Liberia (2011 and 2017) and Uganda in 2016. In 2012 the African Union’s Gender is My Agenda Campaign endorsed WSR as a best practice. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was made the WSR Champion. In 2016, the WSR was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council as an effective mechanism for women’s intervention in conflict resolution and peace building.
For more information, please contact WSR Uganda:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org |Twitter: @WSR_Uganda | Web: www.wsr-uganda.org
In the Northern region WSR covers Gulu, Amuru, Kitgum, Koboko, Arua, Lamwo and Nwoya. Central region includes Kampala, Wakiso, Masaka, Luwero, Mityana, Sembabule and Kassanda districts. Eastern region covers Serere, Iganga, Jinja, Mbale, Katakwi, Bugiri and Soroti districts. Hoima, Mbarara, Isingiro, Kasese, Ntungamo, Kabale, Rukungiri, Kanungu and Rubanda in Western region.