We are fed up of professionals who act unprofessionally. Mr. Kiggundu Sir, thank you where you have been able to deliver, but the reading is clear on the wall, the people of Uganda are fed up of President Museveni's dictatorship prevailing over the will of the people. As a man expected to have principles given your education attainment, can you do the will of the people of Uganda? The people have made proposals for the composition of the Electoral Commission, what is it that dues you on to that chair?
William Kituuka Kiwanuka
I WILL BE THE CHAIRMAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION COME 2016, SAYS KIGGUNDU.
Electoral Commission boss Kiggundu
Posted Sunday, March 27 2011 at 00:00
Electoral Commission Chairman Badru Kiggundu has dared his critics, saying despite charges of bias labelled on him, he will preside over the next national elections in 2016. Dr Kiggundu, the man who has been at the helm of elections in Uganda since the start of multi-party elections, has been accused of being biased by opposition politicians and some civil society organisations. “I will absolutely be here to conduct the elections,” he said.
Speaking exclusively for the first time to Sunday Monitor since the polls ended, Dr Kiggundu said he had received numerous calls from within Uganda and outside praising him for the work well done.“You will be amazed if I tell you how many people have called me saying this was a fabulous work I did,” he said. Ugandans expect another general poll in 2016, and he vowed to be at the EC as chairman. “My term ends November 17, 2016. And God willing, by virtue of my mandate I will be here to conduct the third elections,” he said. He also said he knows by the time of the 2016 polls, some of his haters would have become converted and will like him. His revelation will not be good news to opposition critics who have called for his removal, with some moving around the country seeking signatures of Ugandans to petition his exit as EC boss. Others have done demonstrations to ‘remove a biased EC’.
Uganda has just completed an election season for all political electoral positions right upto the grassroot. Sunday Monitor’s Sheila Naturinda talked to the Electoral Commission Chiarman Badru Kiggundu about the election process, challenges, opportunities and the future. Excerpts;
What was your ideal day like during the elections?
Every day has its own uniqueness and I may not go through the whole story but surely as you get closer to the D-day, you can’t refrain from being apprehensive and asking yourself questions whether you have done everything as planned. Will there be some hiccups and what do I do if there are there and what type would they be? You can’t be too sure about anything in life until the actual hour arrives. With elections, until like midday at least you can take some breather but it’s always part of success. If you want to succeed you must be nervous.
Any specific challenges that troubled you?
The delivery of materials in Kampala to be a few hours late shocked me because we had done well in terms of planning but how it ended up that materials would reach Kampala as late as 10am I am still shocked by it.
Any one to blame?
I don’t blame anybody because this is a multi-faceted task. You have trucks leaving at the same time but the one at the front is the one that reaches late. That has its own backflow effect and there are so many variables. So I can’t put it on one person because the task of elections isn’t a single-handed responsibility. You could reach a polling station and the officials aren’t there. You planned for the best but the practical reality turns out to be the worst. But I appreciate the voters because they were very anxious to vote and those who mattered waited.
You are the first in Uganda’s history to lead the EC over two elections. What makes you a darling of the appointing authority?
If you believe in what the Baganda say “buli mulembe ne bya gwo” (every generation cycle has its own characteristics) maybe …well, it’s a challenge for me to make that assessment about the darlingness in me. I can, however, say I have a sense of commitment to the task and I do read quite a bit and try to understand although I am not saying my predecessors didn’t.
But I am fully committed to my job. I work long hours and I try as much as possible to understand everybody I work with and even those from outside the commission because everybody has a different perception. I try not to make issues personal. I am grateful that the government in its various branches trusted and re-appointed us as a commission. It is an achievement because no other commission has had it and we shall try to fulfill our obligations.
What is your general assessment of the just concluded elections?
I want to claim that this poll has been better than the 2006 poll. I usually hesitate to say it has been free and fair but I can add my voice that it was free and fair. That this election was more peaceful, had more enhanced cooperation from various stakeholders, the security environment was good and I want to salute my colleagues in security who have thoroughly worked with us to ensure the environment meets the prescription of the law.
Opposition politicians think your ears are chocked to the ruling party only. Are you guilty of that accusation?
No, because what they call me isn’t what I am. You can describe me as you see me but deep in my heart I am doing my obligation and as long as I meet those obligations, calls can continue flooding in but I will continue until the appointing authority says stop.
Ever received phone calls threatening you?
Well of course, I have got calls and even what I read in the media is too much but those are all calls from people who actually don’t know who Kiggundu is and may never understand him probably.
The President has also accused some of your commissioners for being agents of the opposition. Do you feel some of your colleagues are compromised?
I don’t know any of them; maybe they could have been years ago but remember we have all come from the movement into multi parties. It would be wrong for me to say such because I haven’t seen those colours in them since we have worked coherently and we continue to do so. If they belonged to such parties in history then it’s okay but now they aren’t. It is only me who has never belonged to any political dispensation.
Do you belong somewhere now?
On the Kampala mayoral elections; what went wrong?
I remember hearing stories because I was in Sironko and that about four polling stations were ballot stuffing.
Certainly, when it became so obvious that there were foreign or advance ballot papers real or unreal, the most logical decision was to call off the elections. We have been thanked by many for taking such a position because the havoc could have been more serious. Unfortunately, it cost the taxpayer a lot more money but it is better to spend but come out peacefully like we did on the March 14 when we finally got a mayor.
Do you think some of your technical officers could have played a role in defeating the spirit of free and fair elections?
Nothing like that has ever been brought to my attention. I meet my staff so often and remind them of the necessity to remain impartial much as they have political animals in them. I don’t have any record of measurable shortfalls from within my staff but I know outsiders always have suspicions.
But you fired 20 staff; was that an indication that things were messed from within the commission?
The moral part I took here was to find out which staff was responsible. We blacklisted all of them and we can never re-engage them immediately or in the future. Secondly, they lost the opportunity to be paid. The third one was to re-train all the officials that stayed as well as their supervisors to equip them with tools to makes use of for the upcoming event. I and surely enough we managed to achieve that. The firing wasn’t an indication of a mess at the commission. It was what we can call an emergency which may occur like in Japan, they have trained scientists but the tsunami hit them.
Having gone through the presidential, parliamentary and LC5 elections, nobody expected what happened. There are challenges which I talked about earlier because you can’t anticipate the true worthiness of a politician. Most times we train our people and politicians do countertraining on the same people. We never train anybody how to ballot stuff. I hear people get ballots stuck under their sleeves. I have never caught one but I have always wanted to get one and slap them then take them to prison. These are adulterations which aren’t in the predictable framework of the commission.
How much money did you spend in all the elections and was it enough?
We haven’t totaled up but it might be around Shs300 billion because we still have more residuals of elections. The total will come later when we finish all the remaining residuals.
Questions have also been raised about how tendering for supply of services was conducted. What was the credibility of the chosen printing firms?
The process was thorough because we advertised internationally and both local and international companies applied but those that met the stringent requirements were selected and we awarded them contracts. We had two international companies - Smith& Ouzman and Calamazu.
We have the most complicated political systems and I told observers that if rolled out correctly we have more than one million elective offices, no other country matches that figure. When you look at our Parliament, we have two lots, LC5 where have five, and the local ones, those are many more. Ours is the most entrenched democracy and it’s quite a volume.
Why did you remain obstinate about cleaning up the voters register even though many thought it was clearly inflated?
There is no perfect election in the world. Our register may have some holes. Once we sealed off and announced that we have finished the cleaning people didn’t stop dying and by the time we went to the polling day there could have been some dead ones on the register. We didn’t have the machinery to remove them because the display had closed. So that could be one of the holes or a blemish on the register. And certainly the duplication process that we so deeply engaged in to remove repetitions couldn’t have given us 100 per cent removal and some stayed.
You can’t believe what we saw in duplication removal because some people tried dressing differently and registered in different villages, some had different combinations of the same name and it wasn’t easy. Remember we have come from very far but I can assure you that we have a very good register and we shall have a much better register come 2016 because we are improving technology.
What happened in Amolatar, for example, was a clear act of electoral fraud. The RDC hijacked the EC list of trained staff and replaced them with his own security operatives. Why did you turn a blind eye to that?
I didn’t realise that. It is news to me because if I had known prior, I would have been able to avert because I don’t speak to any RDCs on such process. I have talked to all RDCs who have been implicated and I have told them to get out of my work. They are civil servants and their obligations don’t lie with the EC. I wish everybody takes their responsible positions seriously and not transgress areas which don’t fit in their mandate and as long as I am still here, no RDC will mess my polls. I don’t joke with elections and the least I expect is an RDC doing so.
Do you think our EC has the best composition in a multi-party system?
On an academic side, if the recruitment is done the way some opinion leaders are saying; they are forgetting that you will be creating a mini parliament where decisions are met by debate and yet here we arrive at our decisions by consensus. Bringing in people who have got triple of double allegiance in any commission would be futile. It is better to select these people with integrity whether they are doctors or whatever profession because when you come here, you must lose your other allegiance.
There are two countries Kenya and Mozambique but you saw the problem which arose in Kenya. In the Mozambique elections, we were present there but I tell you some of their commissioners told us they pray for a time when their commission will not be comprised of party agents. When you have to make a decision, people move out to make telephone calls to consult their parties.
If you ask the Ghana EC boss, he calls such ‘crap’ and he is the most senior and most respected EC boss on the continent. He will tell you not to meddle the electoral administration with political players; but if the law makers in Uganda want to make such moves, I am not here to obstruct them.
You are serving your final term. When is it ending and where next will you go?
My term ends November 17, 2016. And God willing, yes by virtue of mandate I will still be here to conduct the third elections. After that election, I will be in Uganda because I have limitless opportunities in the country and outside. I can assure you I will not fail to find something to do. As per current legal establishment, yes, I will be the chairman EC come 2016. You will be amazed if I tell you how many people have called me and said this was fabulous work I did and the calls are both from within and outside Uganda. By the time of the 2016 polls, some of my haters will have become converted and will like me.