Unemployment and Rising Prices Fuel Electoral Violence in Uganda

unemployment and rising prices fuel electoral violence in uganda
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Unemployment, Inflation, and Electoral Violence in Uganda

Unemployment, particularly among the youth, coupled with rising prices of goods and a high cost of living, has been identified as the primary driver of electoral violence during elections in Uganda. This revelation came from Justice Simon Byabakama, the chairperson of the Electoral Commission. Electoral violence encompasses various forms of violence or intimidation that occur throughout the election process, including physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or actions aimed at disrupting or manipulating the electoral process. It’s essential to emphasize that electoral violence is illegal and contrary to democratic principles.

Byabakama, speaking through the Director of Operations at the Electoral Commission, Richard Kamugisha, made this observation during the launch of the African Electoral Alliance (AEA) National Wide Civic Engagement in Kampala.

“People are dissatisfied for various reasons. There are several challenges afflicting society, including unemployment, high commodity prices, and the high cost of living. People have started using elections as a way to vent their anger against the authorities,” he said.

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Byabakama asserts that people use elections as a trigger to express their dissatisfaction with the authorities, particularly through social media. He also emphasizes the need for caution, warning against being lured into violence, as hate speech promoted on social media exacerbates the situation.

Kamugisha adds that the AEA’s initiative to roll out civic education throughout the country comes at an appropriate time, coinciding with the Electoral Commission’s launch of its five-year strategic plan and the 2025-26 electoral roadmap. These initiatives aim to address the public’s and stakeholders’ complaints about inadequate civic voter education.

Promoting Civic Responsibility and Tolerance

Senior Commissioner of Police Hadijah Namutebi, the chief political commissar in the Uganda Police, appeals to youths to embrace their positive role in society, prioritize Uganda’s interests, and avoid violence despite political differences.

“As the police, we call upon the electorate and aspiring candidates in different positions to work on their differences, so that they do not cause violence,” she said. Namutebi emphasizes that youths should not be suppressed but empowered about their rights during elections, as it helps resolve conflicts and build peace during elections and beyond.

Emily Akuro, the Executive Secretary for the National Women Council, highlights that women are the primary victims of electoral violence, facing unique challenges. She calls for political tolerance and continued sensitization of women about their rights during elections.

Engaging the Youth and Combating Ignorance

Corium Nkata, the Chairperson of the African Electoral Alliance National-Wide Civic Engagement Project, notes that youths are at the center of violence since they constitute 70% of the population. He points out that one of the factors contributing to violence is the lack of information. Many youths do not understand their roles as electorates, particularly regarding elections. Nkata also identifies a lack of knowledge about the importance of their participation and a loss of hope for change as reasons why some youths do not engage in elections.

“If people become informed and show love for their country, electoral violence will not occur because it is primarily caused by hate speech and a loss of hope in the country,” he said. Nkata discloses that they will be visiting various parts of the country to engage with youths on their role in elections and the dangers of engaging in violence.

Over 100 youths from various universities participated in this civic education program on elections, aiming to address the complex issues of unemployment, rising prices, and electoral violence in Uganda.

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