Stakeholders have emphasised the critical need for comprehensive civic education, targeting individuals at all levels in preparation for the 2026 general elections.
They believe that such education can address the challenges that have marred past elections in Uganda, including low voter turnout, voter bribery, political persecution, and campaign violence.
A well-implemented civic education programme, they argue, would bring greater integrity to the political arena.
They were speaking during a meeting, organised by the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) and the Uganda National Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Forum which took place at Resort Hotel in Hoima City on Thursday.
The meeting aimed to induct Hoima district councilors and solicit their views on electoral reforms.
Chiche Benson, the councilor for Buhanika Sub-County, who personally experienced arrests during a recent Local Council 5 Hoima district by-election, expressed concern about the influence of armed forces on elections.
He stressed the importance of educating the public about the democratic process and ensuring free and fair elections without partisan interference.
James Mugenyi Mulindambura, the councilor for Kigorobya Sub-County, stressed the necessity of voter education, advocating for the re-introduction of political education in schools to create a more informed electorate.
Ismail Kusemererwa, the Executive Director of the Midwestern Region Anti-corruption Coalition (MIRAC), emphasised the critical role of civic education, particularly in districts like Hoima and Kikuube, where politics often involves bias and hate speech.
Moureen Kyomuhendo, the FOWODE Regional Coordinator, underscored the significance of district local council leaders in making resolutions that can be adopted by their area members of parliament and enacted into law.
Bbiira Kiwanuka Nassa, the Executive Director of Recreation for Development and Peace (RDP), urged stakeholders to advocate for electoral reforms as a way of addressing the challenges observed in previous elections.
The stakeholders also said proceeding with the 2026 elections without comprehensive electoral reforms could pose a grave risk to the integrity of the electoral process and Ugandan democracy.
Nassa, a regular columnist with The Albertine Journal, said failure to address historical issues perpetuates mistrust and disappointment among voters, potentially leading to voter apathy, political and economic instability.
They raised concerns about the uneven playing field in past elections, including obstacles faced by opposition candidates in terms of media access, campaign restrictions, and unequal allocation of state resources.
Without reforms to level the playing field, they warned that the 2026 elections might not be truly competitive or fair.
The councilors also outlined various proposals for electoral reforms, including ensuring free and fair access to the electorate for all political parties through media and physical engagements, merging administrative units, restoring term limits, and safeguarding the independence of the electoral commission.
Other proposed reforms include reducing the number of MPs per district, introducing digital transfer technology for faster result announcements, regulating the use of money in elections, and controlling the involvement of the army and police in electoral processes.
They also called for granting the President immunity from prosecution after service, requiring the President to temporarily leave office before contesting again, reducing presidential powers during election periods, and introducing electoral colleges.
To popularise these reforms, strategies such as town hall meetings, council pronouncements, promotion of political accountability, engagement with area members of parliament, and leveraging social media channels were discussed.
Kusemererwa encouraged councilors to start addressing issues like the prohibition of money in voter influence, acknowledging that electoral reforms may take time.
Kyomuhendo revealed that the engagements initiated in 2019 have covered three Bunyoro region districts (Hoima, Masindi, and Kiryandongo) and are scheduled to continue for eight years.
The goal of these discussions is to influence parliamentary and constitutional review commission deliberations to align more effectively with the constitution.
The initiative extends to thirteen regions, including Bunyoro, Tooro, Kigezi, Buganda, Busoga, Sebei, Karamoja, Acholi, Bukedi, Teso, Ankole, Lango, and West Nile.