A few links to set the scene as we approach 30 days to Kenya’s vote . . .

Jay Naidoo of The Daily Maverick writes from “the Mukuru Kwa Reuben slum, one of the largest in Nairobi” with an unknown population size: “I have a right to a toilet–it’s human dignity”.

An update on the preparation for Kenya’s citizen digital “crowdsourced” monitoring/mapping effort, using the Ushahidi software: “Uchagazi Community Next Steps”.

H/t to the UN Dispatch blog for noting another official pre-election delegation in Nairobi: “Kenya: UN official stresses need for peaceful and transparent elections”:

“Kenya’s elections will be watched closely around the world,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said during a visit to Nairobi, the capital.

“Let me take this opportunity to appeal to all Kenyans to exercise their democratic right and participate actively – but peacefully – in the elections,” he said. “Let me also underscore the responsibility shared by leaders at all levels to abide by legal mechanisms and to send a clear message to supporters that violence of any kind would be unacceptable.”

Mr. Feltman, who oversees UN support to elections globally in his capacity as Focal Point for UN Electoral Assistance, commended the electoral authorities for their preparations and underscored the readiness of the UN to continue providing financial and technical assistance to the electoral process.

In the category of “open government initiatives,” and “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” the Project on Government Oversight (US) is asking citizens to push the White House to finally fill the vacancy for the the Inspector General for the State Department:

Inspectors general are independent watchdogs within federal agencies that are essential to a well-functioning government. They conduct audits and investigations that identify wasteful government practices, fraud by individuals and government contractors, and other sorts of government misconduct. Congress and the public rely on their reports to hold agencies and individuals accountable for wrongdoing, identify a need for legislation, and evaluate the effectiveness of government programs and policies.

Unfortunately, President Obama went his entire first term without nominating an inspector general for the State Department. At over five years, the State Department opening is the longest running vacancy among federal agencies.


Wycliffe Muga in The Star on “Why we should not dismiss foreigners”, with an example from his own experience in Kenya, but perhaps a universal lesson.

In the category of “it could be worse”: “Is a military coup Museveni’s last line of defense against NRM rebels?” asks Gaaki Kigambo in The East African.


Ballot Stuffing Interrupted in Kampala–What Happens When Ruling Party Gets Caught Red Handed?

Daily Monitor: “Chaos in the City:  Details on how Sematimba’s rigging plan was hatched”

Kampala mayoral candidates, observers and legal minds have demanded the disqualification of the ruling party candidate, Peter Sematimba, from the contest after leaked ballot papers pre-ticked in his favour were intercepted in various parts of Kampala.

Large-scale ballot stuffing and other electoral malpractices yesterday forced the Electoral Commission to suspend the voting exercise in Kampala and promise an investigation into the source of the ballot papers and boxes found in possession of private individuals.

Calls for disqualification
The local government elections went on in other parts of the country even though our correspondents talked of a very low voter turn-out, largely blamed on voter disillusionment and fatigue.
Mr Michael Mabikke, Mr Erias Lukwago, Ms Sandra Ngabo Kateblirwe and Capt. Francis Babu accused the NRM party of hatching a plan to help Mr Ssematimba win through dubious means, an accusation the NRM candidate stoutly denied.

The Uganda Law Society and the Democracy Monitoring Group (DemGroup) and other observers also called for disqualification of mayoral candidates implicated in the ballot stuffing. However, the EC said any action will be taken only after an investigation.

.  .  .  .

Rigging began at Bat Valley polling station, where five pre-ticked ballot boxes were intercepted at 3am by mayoral candidate Erias Lukwago’s agents. A fracas later ensued in this area after it emerged that Kampala Metropolitan Police commander Andrew Sorowen was allegedly among the police officers protecting ballot stuffers, a claim the police spokesperson denied.

But after hours of standoff, police later allowed the counting of the stuffed ballots but couldn’t put a finger on the suspects. In one of the boxes counted at around 7:30am in the presence of our correspondent at Bat Valley, there were 399 pre-ticked ballot papers– all in favour of Mr Sematimba, who is also a pastor.

In a second box, there were 424 ballot papers pre-ticked in favour of the National Resistance Movement councillors and the remaining three boxes were confiscated before they were pre-ticked. The intercepted pre-ticked ballot papers at Buganda Road polling station had not yet been counted by 9:50 am waiting for Electoral Commission instructions.

.  .  .  .

According to the source, Mr Sematimba’s henchmen were only discovered because another mayoral candidate, Erias Lukwago, and his loyalists somehow came into the know of this plot.  Sematimba and Lukwago’s supporters were involved in violent confrontation for most of the night until the wee hours of Wednesday morning when police intervened. It is also emerging that several Electoral Commission officials and police officers were facilitated to look the other way as the malpractices happened.
This will be a good test for the state of the “rule of law” in Uganda–and a test of the level of seriousness of the Western donors who have helped underwrite the NRM government for so many years now.  How many other races did this happen in–or does rigging only happen in the competition for local office?

Uganda Votes (updated)

A reminder of the link to the Uchaguzi “Citizen Election Watch–IT” site. And the “Uganda Watch 2011” site, which is a partnership including Citizen Election Watch–IT with funding from the multi-donor Deepening Democracy and the U.S.’s National Democratic Institute.

Also follow the hashtag #ugandavotes on Twitter.

[Update:  with voting concluded, the internet is alive early evening Uganda time with unverified vote totals being reported on Twitter directly and from SMS from various polling stations.  The dispersion of communication technology is continuing to have an impact–this is well beyond what was available in Kenya in December 2007.  Here is the initial Bloomberg story from Sarah McGregor an hour after polls closed.]

The BBC reports that voting has been proceeding smoothly after delayed poll opening.

Here are a couple of the overview articles from yesterday’s international press.

“Heads I Win, Tails You Lose”, Michael J. Wilkerson in Foreign Policy:

It’s hard to overstate Museveni’s advantage in Friday’s ballot. He has significantly more campaign funds — both legitimate and under the table — than the opposition. He has access to state resources to mobilize his supporters, and the loyalty of the security services. Uganda has seen record economic growth in recent years under his oversight. And Museveni has strong Western backing, winning praise for example for his innovative HIV/AIDS campaign and his commitment to fighting terrorism. (It also helps, of course, that he appointed the electoral commission.)

Sounds easy, right? Yet Museveni and his party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), are leaving nothing to chance. Across Kampala, major billboards usually devoted to expensive advertisements for Coca-Cola, phone companies, or other big spenders have almost all been replaced with NRM campaign items. The party has even hired a helicopter to fly around the city dropping leaflets and blaring Museveni’s campaign song — a remixed version of his attempt to bond with young voters by rapping at a rally. And then there is Museveni’s use of government resources, like the presidential helicopter, to travel around the country and campaign.

Since it’s not officially reported, campaign spending is hard to gauge here. But Andrew Mwenda, editor of the Independent weekly magazine and consistent critic of Museveni’s regime, has an estimate: “Museveni has spent $350 million dollars on this election alone,” he told me.

Meanwhile, the government is effectively bankrupt. In January, parliament passed a supplemental budget increase of $260 million, yet just weeks later, Minister of Finance Syda Bbumba announced that the government was broke and ministries would be examining emergency cost-cutting measures. According to local newspaper reports, government officials confirm that money was diverted to NRM campaigns for the presidency and parliamentary seats, and $1.3 billion, or almost a third of the annual budget was spent in January alone. (Unsurprisingly, the IMF refused last week to sign off on Uganda’s economic policies, diplomatically describing them as “inconsistent” with previous agreements with the fund.)

“Uganda Will Deploy Security at All Polling Stations” by Sarah McGregor, Bloomberg.