By Crispin Kugiza Kaheru
The by-election of the district Chairperson in Hoima, is currently underway today.
The total number of voters in Hoima district is 94,825, with slightly more females than males. There are 173 polling stations in the two sub-counties of Bugahya and Kigorobya that make up Hoima district.
Five candidates: Patrick Musinguzi (FDC); Uthman Mugisha Mubaraka (NRM); Vincent Muhumuza alias Savana (Independent); Aguuda Moses (NUP), and Lennox Mugume (Independent).
Crispin Kugiza Kaheru, the election observer who also doubles as Commissioner, Uganda Human Rights Commission, in an email communication to The Albertine Journal said polls opened at 7:00am at a few polling stations.
Delays were noted in both Bugahya and Kigorobya due to disruptions caused by the early morning rains and in many cases the absence of the 10 voters required to witness the opening of polling. Election materials had however been delivered at most polling stations.
Many polling stations across the district have had to be relocated from outdoor venues to enclosed facilities such as class rooms, churches and other buildings due to the rainy weather.
Candidate agents are visible at polling stations. Most of the agents present belong to the NRM, NUP, Independent (Savana) and FDC candidates.
While members from the media are actively following the voting process, there is a notable absence of domestic election observers – generally.
There is a visible presence of security personnel across the district. So far, the role of security personnel is limited to patrolling, keeping law and order in designated electoral areas.
There are queues of between 10 and 15 people at most polling stations located in trading centers and townships. The queues are much shorter at polling stations in the rural areas.
It takes about 3 minutes for a voter to complete the voting cycle once they have been verified. So far, the biometric voter-verification devices are functioning well.
The September 14, 2023, polls comes against the backdrop of a tense campaign. Despite the tensions that defined the pre-polling period, voting generally commenced peacefully with no major incidents observed. However, electoral environments can change very quickly.
Notwithstanding complaints around the disruptions caused by the heavy rain, election stakeholders including candidates, agents, security, election administrators, media, monitors/observers and the electorate seem to be collaborating up to this point.
We implore all stakeholders to remain vigilant on the election, as well as exercise tolerance and respect for each other as the process unfolds.
The Electoral Commission and all state actors should maintain a high standard of integrity, professionalism and independence as they execute their duties.
Elections are supposed to be democratic exercises that allow citizens to express their will on who leads them.
While competition is a natural part of elective politics, it must always be conducted within the bounds of the law and with respect for the democratic principles of freedom, fairness, and transparency.
Simon Byabakama, the electoral commission chairperson promises to do everything possible to have a free and fair election.