On Tuesday 10th November, the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU), The Elders’ Forum of Uganda (TEFU), and the National Consultative Forum (NCF), who have formed a joint effort for peace and stability, held a dialogue with Political leaders and the Electoral Commission, to discuss some of the salient issues and share emerging concerns during this electoral process.
The joint effort held two separate meetings with political leaders in the morning, and later with the Electoral Commission led by Eng. Dr. Badru Kiggundu, at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
Addressing the Political leaders in the morning, the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, who is also the acting Chair of the IRCU Council of Presidents, His Grace the Most Reverend, Stanley Ntagali, shared with the delegates a couple of issues instrumental to achieving peaceful elections and maintaining stability in the country.
Amongst the issues raised was the commercialization of politics and the use of bad language during elections. Archbishop Ntagali noted that the public display of money during elections and giving it out to voters, corrupts the judgment of voters, especially the poor, illiterate and most vulnerable in communities.
“The lack of transparency in political funding and use of unaccounted monies in elections leave behind a trail of inflation, corruption and dependency among citizenry,” Archbishop Ntagali said.
He also condemned the use of bad language saying it can reverse the pace for peace, reconciliation and stability. “We expect candidates to suggest development alternatives that will cause change in the lives of the people they aspire to serve,” Archbishop Ntagali added.
Addressing the team from the EC, the retired Archbishop of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, and Interim Chair of IRCU, Pr. Dr. John B. D. Kakembo, urged them to set minimum standards and qualifications that presiding officers and polling assistants must meet.
Pr. Kakembo noted that it is alleged that the recruitment process is biased to candidates with an inclination to the National Resistance Movement party.
“We therefore urge you to let the recruitment process be open and competitive, and consult members of all political parties,” he said.
According to Pr. Kakembo, there is still lack of voter education judging from the chaos witnessed during the NRM primaries. “We fear that the unsightly events we watched on our TV stations during the NRM primaries might spill into the general elections,” he said.
Pr. Kakembo urged the Electoral Commission to make use of prayer houses and mosques to deliver voter education to the electorate in a bid to promote peace and stability.
IRCU, TEFU and NCF also suggested the need to hold a national dialogue to solve the many emerging contentious governance issues that no single party in government or opposition can resolve. According to the joint effort, the dialogue should bring together all stakeholders irrespective of political or any other differences.
The joint effort also intends to initiate regional consultations across the country on issues that are likely to impact on peace and stability during, before and after the 2016 elections. The regional consultations are being coordinated by the Regional Peace and Stability Forums IRCU launched earlier this year.
These Fora will mobilize and organize Ugandans to work for peace and also strengthen early warning and rapid response capabilities especially in the electoral hot-spot areas.
On 25-27 September 2015, Heads of State and Government and High Representatives, met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and decided on new global goals-the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
They came up with 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets that will replace the 15 year Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and fulfill all that which was not achieved by the MDGs
The SDGs aim to; end poverty in all its forms everywhere, end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning, achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, ensure access to water and sanitation for all, ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation, and reduce inequality within and among countries,
The SDGs also intend to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, conserve and sustainably use the oceans and marine resources for sustainable development, protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss, promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies and strengthen means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
The role of religious leaders
According to the National Director of World Vision Uganda, Gilbert Kamanga, the issues addressed by the global goals are central to all faiths. Achieving SDGs require a shift of attitudes of both Secular and Faith based development actors on the role of faith in development.
Making a presentation at a senior religious leaders’ high level review meeting HIV/AIDS, maternal health and Gender based violence, in October, Kamanga said that Worldwide, 80% of the people identify with a religious group; which makes religious leaders have a big voice in the lives of people.
As a result, Kamanga believes that for religious leaders to have an impact in achieving the SDGs, they should advocate, educate and collaborate both among themselves with broader initiatives.
According to Kamanga, religious leaders should remind political leaders and policy makers of their moral imperative to end extreme poverty. He also said religious leaders should deepen community investment through their institutions to help end poverty as is the number one SDG.
Religious leaders should mobilize and engage the youth to move from awareness to action, establish participatory accountability mechanisms, continue to explore opportunities for collaboration and for sharing a compelling vision of what is required to achieve the SDGs, and also share their extensive experience of working with the world’s most vulnerable and hard to reach places.