AUGUST 1, 2010: Dialogue Will Help Ensure Peaceful Polls

Dialogue Will Help Ensure Peaceful Polls

SOURCE: New Vision

Kampala — The move taken by the Uganda Human Rights Commission to organise the national conference on prevention of conflict during and after the 2011 elections, is a step in the right direction.

The conference jointly organised by the commission, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Deepening Democracy Programme, brought together government ministers, opposition leaders, the electoral commission officials, resident district commissioners, leaders of political parties, district Police commanders and other security agencies.

Uganda is preparing for the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections early next year. Quite often elections are characterised by violence.

In some cases, elections have resulted into civil war or serious civil unrest, as was the case in Uganda in 1980 and in the neighbouring Kenya where more than 1,200 people were killed and some 350,000 displaced into temporary camps, in 2008 after a contested general election.

One of the ways to avoid election violence is to ensure dialogue among the stakeholders - the contenders, the election officials and the security forces mandated to maintain law and order. Election violence often occurs where communication or dialogue between the protagonists is lacking.

Therefore, the Uganda Human Rights Commission's efforts to facilitate dialogue between the key actors in the country's political arena should be

It is unfortunate that some of the top leaders did not attend the conference and instead left their juniors to represent their parties. In particular, the FDC president, Col. Dr Kizza Besigye, has often been conspicuously absent from meetings intended to facilitate dialogue between the leaders of the ruling NRM and the opposition.

Instead of organising street protests, Besigye and the opposition should be seeking to hold dialogue with the NRM leaders to reach consensus on electoral issues.

The Human Rights Commission should also organise similar meetings for the local leaders of the political parties, security officers and election officials in the districts. These meetings will greatly help to minimise violence in the coming elections.

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