AUGUST 26, 2010: Church offers guidance on elections

Church offers guidance on elections

SOURCE: The Monitor

Catholic bishops in a June 11 letter to the nation raised concerns over the preparations for next year’s elections and offered guidance on how to maintain peace and conduct free and fair elections. We bring you an abridged version of the epistle.

We, the Catholic Bishops of Uganda, write this letter out of good will and commitment to ensuring a peaceful and harmonious existence of our mother country Uganda and all people of God who dwell in it.

We write with passion and deep concern that the road towards the 2011 general elections is creating a lot of anxiety, doubts, fear and moments of hopelessness among the people of God.
Many are already sensing improper handling in the ongoing process and fearing unwanted consequences.

We, therefore, call upon everyone to take on the responsibility of ensuring that the 2011 general elections are another stage in the country’s move towards a true electoral democracy in Uganda.
We write this letter to provide guidance on how we should avoid what may cause confusion and animosity among our people.

We should not wait to enter into the resolving of conflict but rather prevent it thereby minimizing pain, division and social strife. Such conflict prevention is possible, timely and can be successful.

We must all remember how easy it is to destroy peace but how restoring tranquility is a difficult and arduous process. This Pastoral Letter is therefore, a call to all to be responsible citizens.
One of the major pillars and foundations of a democratic society is organising regular, free and fair elections. This must involve the people themselves. Elections provide the most direct and important means for the people to express their wishes and views regarding their political leaders.

Elections by their nature should and must provide our electorate with regular opportunities to peacefully comment, challenge, change and review their government. This, in our view, can deter sociopolitical turmoil by controlling and making regular the struggle for power which has always been identified with our history. Therefore, at this moment when the whole country is preparing for general elections in 2011, we religious leaders cannot ignore Uganda’s problems of tyranny, war, violence and fraud.

The question of a free and democratic electoral process is inescapable from the agenda of the Catholic Church at this time as we together pursue the consolidation of democracy in our country.

The Purpose of this Letter
The letter is meant to offer guidance to all concerned so that the exercise is properly understood and lived as a special moment of coming together for the good of the country and all citizens.

The letter should be available to all so that each category of people may find the guidance that the Catholic Church intends to offer to the electorate irrespective of one’s political inclinations.

How to use this Letter
Given the great deal of information and issues surrounding the electoral process, this guidance is written to provide the rationale for the faithful to be informed of and involved in the electoral process, with specific recommendations for actions to be taken or positions to be supported.

This Letter can serve as a reference point for clergy as they seek to understand the issues that will shape the electoral process and in turn, will be key factors in whether the outcome will be peaceful or violence ridden.

Therefore, we ask all pastoral workers to keep in mind the following guidelines:
lPastoral workers, particularly priests and religious leaders, should study the letter with their close collaborators;

They should summarise the main points to give to the public on Sunday celebrations;

Choose those issues that are more relevant to your specific situation and present them in a more detailed way;

Use the letter as a useful instrument to educate the people to develop their social and political awareness as active members in the development of Ugandan society.

Historical Challenges in the Electoral Process
As we look forward to the elections, let us remind ourselves that the past has an immediate bearing on the present and provides good lessons for the future. Historically, Uganda has lacked a positive culture of elections and has seen the practice of the politics of elimination, resulting in harassment, character assassination, and destruction of life and property especially of the ‘opposition’. We are still nursing the wounds of this bitter history.

Election processes in Uganda have been fraught with difficulty.
In 1958, the first elections to elect representatives to the legislative council were boycotted in Buganda. The elections of 1961 and 1962 were postponed and those planned for 1971 were pre-emptied by Idi Amin’s military coup and usurpation of power that year.

URL Address: