Interreligious Body in Uganda among Dozens of Entities Accredited for Voter Education

Voter Education Outreach Program in Uganda.
Credit: Electoral Commission of Uganda

The Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) is among 46 civil society organizations (CSOs) accredited by the country’s electoral body to carry out voter education ahead of the general elections scheduled to take place in February 2021.

The 46 CSOs whose accreditation was made public Wednesday, September 30 by the leadership of the Electoral Commission of Uganda are expected to facilitate voter sensitization exercise throughout the East African country.

In carrying out their mandate, the CSOs will use a manual, which the electoral body developed. The manual has information on rights, freedoms, roles and responsibilities of the voter, the media, and the candidates, the electoral commission’s Media and Public Relations manager, Paul Bukenya has been quoted as saying.

According to Mr. Bukenya, the manual has also information about the roles, obligations and responsibilities of the stakeholders in the general elections.

Other CSOs accredited for voter education include the National NGO Forum, Africa Freedom of Information Centre, Coalition Centre for Electoral Democracy (CCEDU), Centre for Basic Research, Action for Development (ACFODE) and the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE).

IRCU, which brings together representatives of seven religious bodies in the country including the Episcopal Conference of Uganda (UEC) has governance as one of its key pillars through which good governance and independent, free and fair polls are fostered.

Following the ban on campaign rallies announced by Uganda’s electoral commission in June and the subsequent advice to candidates to use media outlets to interact with their respective electorates, the leadership of the 19-year-old interreligious body decried unequal access to the media and police brutality.

In their August statement, the faith leaders called upon political actors and electoral managers in the country to “engage in a win-win dialogue on how to access media space equitably; how to enforce the regulations uniformly and agree on the mode of campaigns.”

Through their initiative dubbed “working together for peaceful, credible free and fair elections 2020/21,” the IRCU members expressed their willingness to work with various stakeholders to address the existing challenges that they say are undermining the growth of the country’s democracy.

The challenges, they said, include the declining trend in respect for freedom of expression, the narrowing civic and political space, and concerns about the increasing monetization of elections.

They also raised concerns about violence in elections; persistent challenges of limited participation of women, youth and People with Disabilities (PWDs) in elections; the lack of equal access to media; and gross apathy among the electorate.

The IRCU leadership was also behind the country’s “first ever” presidential candidates’ debates that took place ahead of the 2016 general elections, a milestone achieved in partnership with the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) and The Elder’s Forum (TEFU).

According to IRCU leadership, Ugandans appreciated the debates and encouraged that the body considers institutionalizing them in the country’s politics.

The faith leaders also announced the “second edition of the presidential and constituency candidates’ debates” on a date they said “shall be announced as soon as the presidential and parliamentary campaigns begin.”

“The candidates’ debates are a neutral dignified forum or platform where candidates or political leaders are given the opportunity to sell their agenda to the electorate and in the case of Uganda, commit themselves to a fair, peaceful and credible election,” IRCU leadership said.

Established in 2001, the mission of IRCU is to promote peace, reconciliation, good governance, and holistic human development through interfaith action and collaboration, advocating for the empowerment of member bodies for the common good.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

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