Full disclosure of Information will enhance citizens participation in electoral processes: AFIC Report
Access to information empowers the electorate to be well informed about the political processes with due regard to their best interest
In a bid to foster citizens participation in credible, free and and fair electoral processes in Africa, Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) and other stakeholders have highlighted the need for citizens to access electoral information to ensure they make informed decision while choosing their leaders.
AFIC conducted an assessment on the state of access to Information and Elections in Uganda from July 2020. The findings indicate that lack of information on election processes have undermined citizens participation in elections as well as increased mistrust of the outcomes of election processes.
The project according to Gilbert Sendugwa AFIC Executive Director, aimes at enhancing transparency and accountability in electoral processes in Africa especially in Uganda, The Gambia, and Zambia. He said that there is need to promote access to information, increase participation of citizens and enhance proactive discloser of information by elections bodies.
“Lack of access to information has affected the ability of citizens in Africa to effectively and meaningfully participate in elections. We seek to bridge the gap of citizens access to information in elections. Election in Africa in the findings are characterized by secrecy, malpractices, lack of trust for processes and outcomes” he said.
During a one day stakeholders training held at Fairway Hotel on Thursday 26th November 2020, Gilbert said that there is need to have appropriate laws implemented to enable people access and use information in elections to allow high voter participation including informing on candidates, voting dates, guidelines among others in the forthcoming general elections in Uganda.
“while the government of Uganda prepares for this important step to democratic governance, it should adhere to human rights standards like the right to access to information to ensure free and fair elections in 2021” he said.
The practice in Uganda as in the study by AFIC were subjected to the standards of the African Union Guidelines on Access to Information and Elections in Africa.
The findings indicated the following:
Poor implementation of proactive discloser in public institutions like Electoral Commission and others against the proactive discloser of electoral processes Information, on management of of information the information is stored in unusable formats, there is limited disclosure, there are no guidelines by electoral commission on access to Information especially during the COVID era that has disrupted the normal campaigns in Uganda among others.
While presenting the findings Gilbert recommended to parliament to use its oversight role and compel ministers to comply with the Access to information law and ensure the process of selection and appointment of electoral bodies to be transparent and allow public participation. He urged security agencies to refrain from exercising excessive force which he said undermines citizens to exercise their rights while to political parties, he called upon political parties to disclose their finance sources among others.
The African Commission on Human Rights and People’s rights adopted Guidelines on Access to Information and Elections to provide direction to relevant electoral stakeholders who have a duty to proactively disclose information in their possession or control that are necessary for safeguarding the integrity and legitimacy of electoral processes.