By Peter G. Mwesige
Dear friends in the Ugandan media, I salute you for your courage and diligence as you continue providing citizens and the whole world with information about Uganda’s presidential and parliamentary elections held last week.
In particular, I commend those in your number who have offered or attempted to offer analysis, depth, explanation, and perspective.
I know from experience that it’s not easy to access the evidence required to corroborate all the claims thrown around by different parties. For instance, verifying claims about election rigging is not as easy as some people think.
However, there are many areas where you can offer citizens more useful information by simply asking (yourself) the right questions and then finding the human and documentary sources to help you answer them.
Here are 10 questions that you can help us answer this week (if you’ve already provided the answers, well and good):
1. What exactly was the manifest cause of the massive voting delays in Kampala, Wakiso, Jinja and a few other parts of the country (I say manifest because I know it is harder to prove latent causes)? The Electoral Commission blamed the delays on transport. Describe the process (along the way probing) through which the voting materials were distributed, starting from how they left the commission’s warehouses to when they were delivered at the polling stations. How was this process in previous elections?
2. Before the election, there was a lot of talk about protecting the vote from Forum for Democratic Change candidate Kizza Besigye and Go Forward’s Amama Mbabazi. How exactly did this play out?
3. There was a lot of concern about the Electoral Commission’s method of announcing aggregated results without showing on a screen where these results were coming from? Was the method of presenting the results discussed with the party agents at the EC’s National Tally Centre? Did all the parties agree with the EC? Take us through the whole process of transmission and dissemination from getting the results from the polling stations to the announcement at the National Tally Centre. Did the Electronic Results Transmission and Dissemination System work? Did it make a difference?
4. What happens after the declaration? Does counting of the votes stop? Will results from the remaining nearly 1,800 polling stations be added to the final tally (we know it won’t change the winner)? How has this been handled in the past?
5. Why were results from Rukungiri, Dr Besigye’s home district, left out of the tally as announced by EC on Saturday?
6. There was a lot of concern about crime preventers before the elections. What role did they actually play? Were they visible?
7. What exactly is at the Naguru house that Dr Besigye said was a centre of rigging? If it’s a police communications centre, as I read somewhere, why is it not at the headquarters?
8. Why has there been muted (or no) celebration of President Museveni’s victory?
9. What explains Mr Mbabazi’s underwhelming performance? Why did his candidacy, to borrow from The New York Times’ description of Jeb Bush, who suspended his campaign over the weekend, fall “so monumentally short of its original expectations”?
10. What explains Dr Besigye’s resurgence?
11. How did the different political parties perform in the parliamentary elections? Did they gain or lose seats or was there no change?
12. Will what happened last week affect the turnout in Wednesday’s local government elections? What is the EC doing, if anything, to avert the problems that characterised Thursday’s elections?
Dr. Peter G. Mwesige is co-founder and executive director of African Centre for Media Excellence. He previously headed the department of journalism & communication at Makerere University and was executive editor of Monitor Publications Ltd.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @pmwesige