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Makerere warns candidates against violence ahead of 2024 guild elections

Kampala, (UG):- The Chairperson of the Makerere University Guild Electoral Commission Ramadhan Kirunda warned candidates against violating the election rules ahead of the 2024 Guild elections.

According to the roadmap, the elections are scheduled to take place on March 7th.

Kirunda said that 16 candidates have been nominated for the position of Guild President.

In addition to electing the Guild President, students will also vote for School Guild representatives, Halls Guild representatives, College Guild council members, Chairpersons of college councils, Students Guild Tribunal, Students Debating Union, and Students Games Union, among other positions.

For the fourth consecutive time, Makerere University is organizing an online election. The decision to conduct elections virtually was introduced as a measure to regulate large gatherings and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Initially perceived as a temporary solution, virtual elections became a permanent practice after an incident involving a Uganda Christian University student, Betungura Bewatte, who lost his life during election campaigns in 2022.

Following this, the University council decided to enforce a permanent ban on physical guild elections and mandated that all future elections of student leaders be conducted online.

The University also resolved to limit the influence of political parties in the University Guild affairs citing concerns that political affiliations sow discord among the student body.

This was intended to put to an end the long-term behavior of political party leaders who went to the University during election periods to campaign for their candidates and provide logistical support and finances.

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But, while these measures were instituted, several candidates have been accused of violating the regulations. In response, the students have also been criticizing the University for restricting their constitutional freedom to affiliate with political parties of their choice.

Last year, the University’s Electoral Commission disqualified two candidates, National Unity Platform (NUP) flag bearer Margaret Nattabi and independent candidate Sulaiman Namwoza, for holding a “Kimeza,” which contradicted section 10(b) of the new students’ guild statute of 2022.

Addressing journalists at the University’s Senate building on a Friday, Kirunda, the Guild Electoral Chairperson, issued a stern warning that any student found guilty of holding physical campaigns or affiliating with political parties would face automatic disqualification.

Kirunda emphasized that in addition to disqualification, any candidate found violating the Guild statute would face suspension from the University for a minimum of one year.

Since opening applications in January, the Electoral Commission received over 589 aspirants for various positions, including 22 Guild President aspirants. However, only 16 candidates were duly nominated for the position of Guild President.

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Meanwhile, since the University turned to virtual elections, the process has been plagued by several challenges, including low voter turnout, erratic virtual election systems, and difficulties in accessing the voting portal. Last year, during virtual voting, some students received messages indicating they had already cast their votes, while others encountered error messages hindering their access to the portal.

Addressing these concerns, Kirunda assured all candidates and students that significant improvements have been made to the election technology, which has been thoroughly tested and proven unhackable. Additionally, Kirunda said that they have already registered more than 30,000 voters.

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