SEPTEMBER 15, 2010: Civil Society Organisations Spend to Avert Violence in 2011 Elections

Civil Society Organisations Spend to Avert Violence in 2011 Elections

SOURCE: The Independent

By Haggai Matsiko

Kampala — In the last weeks, tension has been growing in the country with warring political contestants, especially within the NRM, unleashing mayhem against each other. Every week there seems to be another conflict. As a result, civil society organizations have created various projects to prevent potential violence that could erupt in the 2011 presidential elections.

One of these projects is a soccer tournament between opposing politicians; the interparty political party for peace tournament is scheduled to run from September 29 to October 3. It is being organized by the Global Peace Festival Foundation (GPFF), which was launched by Prof. Apollo Nsibambi, the prime minister of Uganda, on Aug 30.

James Birungi Ozo, the foundation's Deputy Country Director, says that GPPF is set to "use soccer to reconcile the warring political parties. The tournament is set to cost over $250,000 (Shs.560 m).

But on October 21, International Peace Day, GPPF plans to spend an additional Shs 50 million on a soccer game for peace in Sembabule district to defuse the growing political tension between Hon. Theodore Sekikubo and Hon. Sam Kuteesa.

The MPs have had long standing feud with each other. For instance, during the NRM district chairman primary elections, where the two were contesting against each other, the election turned Sembabule into a battle front as gunshots brought the voting exercise to a halt. The two have since then engaged in media wars, with Ssekikubo accusing Kuteesa of rigging elections and using the money to woe voters. Even efforts by President Museveni to reconcile the two have yet to be productive. On September 1, the President held a meeting to reconcile them but while Sekikubo attended, Kuteesa did not because he claimed to have commitments back in Sembabule.

Now, imagine the two playing football together--indeed, it would be quite a sight to watch the two sworn enemies make passes for each other or show case their dribbling skills to their supporters.

"Heh Kuteesa," I can imagine Sekikubo saying, "just because you have all the money does not mean that you can challenge me on the pitch." To which Kuteesa would invariably reply: "I do not only have the money but impeccable dribbling skills too."

As good as this sounds, the soccer approach is quite expensive and is likely to waste a lot of resources that could have been potentially more fruitful in constructing a school or any public facility.

In total, the two football competitions will cost GPFF Shs 610 million--enough money for a strong opposition party to run a successful campaign. Moreover, experts say that the majority of NGO funds are spent on workshops, furnished offices, and workers' remuneration, leaving very little for the real projects.

According to the NGO registration board, there are over 8500 civil society organizations in Uganda and of these over 1000 are aimed at preventing violence or promoting election integrity. The Deepening Democracy Programme (DPP), a programme funded by the Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, has spent over Shs 26 billion supporting over 40 peace initiative projects through various NGOs.

Although all of DDP's funded projects are not dedicated to promoting election integrity, 40 percent of the DDP funds are dedicated to this directly.

At over Shs 5.2 billion, the Electoral Commission is the biggest beneficiary of the DDP funds. Sam Rwakojo, the Secretary General of the Electoral Commission, says the funds enabled the commission to carry out voter education and sensitisation, registration and party liaison among other activities.

"The fund has been mainly used in voter education and voter education materials especially into the school curriculum," Rwakojo says. "The funds also helped conduct one on one voter education campaigns especially in Eastern Uganda and many other activities."

Democracy Monitoring Group (DemGroup), a group that brings together the Centre for Democratic Governance, Uganda Joint Christian council, Action for Development and Transparency International, received Shs 2.6 billion from DDP, the second highest after the EC. The group is one of the core organizations that are monitoring and observing build up and final of the 2011 elections.

Other NGOs that receive funds from DDP include: Advocacy for Violence-Free Election (AFOVE), Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), Action for Development (ACFODE), Transparency International Uganda (TIU), and the Centre for Democratic Governance (CDG), NGO Election Monitoring Group-Uganda (NEM Group), Forum for Women in Democracy (FAWODE), Action for Development (ACFODE), and Uganda National NGO Forum among others.

Although the funds these NGO receive often remain unknown to the public, the money they received during the 2006 elections was used to report significant violations of electoral law and protocol, including disenfranchisement of voters, counting and tallying irregularities and the incarceration of political opposition leaders.

DDP has also extended funds to political parties; Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has received Shs 399 million. However, these funds are not supposed to be used for campaigns, according to the Political Parties and Organisations' Act.

"We do not fund political campaigns and we are not allowed to give parties more than Shs 400 million," says DDP Manager Nicholas de Torrente'. "We closely monitor and audit their expenditure details."

Funds are provided to build the organisational capacity of institutions, strengthen internal democracy and develop links with their constituents to compete favourably with the ruling party. Torrente' adds that parties are only given funds to match the money that they are able to raise on their own. For instance, UPC has received Shs 159m, PPP 53m, SDP 46, JEEMA 32m and PDP 22. Parties then forward their audited accounts which are also audited by donor auditors.

However, there has been controversy over how the parties use these funds. The flag bearer of Inter-Party Cooperation, Dr. Kizza Besigye, has accused some donors of double standards. Besigye's remarks were sparked by an email in June from the Christian Democratic International Centre, a Sweden-based organisation that funds many of the IPC's activities.

The email expressed concern that the IPC was not following its roadmap and that the group was spending a lot of time on futile anti-EC demonstrations instead of selecting a flag bearer and mobilizing at the grass roots level.

However, Nicholas de Torrente' disagreed with KIC's actions: "There is should be a limit on what donors do in influencing political process," he says.

With just a few months to the 2011 elections, DEMGroup has also been observing the ongoing electoral process. The organisation has made a number of observations that EC should address which include; inadequately trained staff and inadequate supervision of the recently concluded voter display process. The organisation also blames opposition political parties for neglecting the register display exercise despite their complaints against the EC. DEMGroup claims that of the 211 display centres observed, political parties were present at only 4.7%.

DEMGroup and Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy (CCEDU), both domestic election monitoring organizations, will be carrying out monitoring and observing strategies that include a citizen hotline, entitled Uganda Watch 2011.

The hotline is to be used to text in concerns about the integrity of the electoral process. That information will be collected and organized by DEMGroup and CCEDU monitors and uploaded at the Uganda watch 2011 website.

DEMGroup and CCEDU also intend to hold feedback sessions throughout the country so that particular complaints or trends are highlighted and so citizens can participate in electoral reform efforts.

The feedback sessions, which will involve representatives from the government, political parties, the Electoral Commission and civil society, will be recorded and played on radio stations in all regions of Uganda.

With such initiatives, the civil society organizations seem to be doing a lot towards preventing a violent election and empowering the public to make informed decisions. However, critics say that majority of the NGOs are just masqueraders or have not taken their services down to the public that needs them more and whom they use to lobby for funds.

For instance, Prof. Nsibambi said as much as NGOs were important in ensuring peace processes, there was need to identify them "which are just parasitic."

He said that countries experience conflict because of lack of knowledge on how to solve the conflict.

"We need institutions to resolve conflicts, and sometimes these institutions can be very helpful," said Nsibambi.

The Prime Minister said that his office was investigating a number of NGOs, especially in northern Uganda, that are just masquerading and swindling donor funds. NGOs now have to report to the office with their year returns and audits of account.

Nsibambi directed the internal affairs ministry to compile a list of all NGOs operating in the north, which have not been accounting for funds meant for the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan.

The Prime Minister said the names should be forwarded to the NGO Board for action. Nsibambi was concerned that although development partners have injected billions of money into the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan, some NGOs have never accounted for the funds, making it difficult for the government to monitor and track donor contributions.

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