To vote or not to vote: Will the 2016 election represent the will of all Ugandans?

 By Philimon Badagawa & Paul Kisembo

The February 2016 Elections are billed as a crucial time when #UgandaDecides who will be the next president, Members of Parliament and local government leaders.

Frequent free and fair elections are globally regarded as a key component of democratic governance as citizens of a country get the chance to determine who will lead them.

All Ugandans aged 18 and above were urged to register to vote and take part in the February 18th 2016 polls.

According to the Uganda Electoral Commission, a total of 15,277,196 have been registered to take part in the 2016 elections. But are all the registered Ugandans looking forward to voting (and therefore deciding) who will be in what office after the polls are conducted?

Like the past elections, there are ongoing efforts by different players including the Electoral Commission and civil society organizations encouraging people to cross check their voter details, to go and vote on Election Day, and to ensure citizens vote based on their free will or appreciation of issues being articulated by candidates, and not material enticements, bias or force. But as the clock ticks to the February 2016 election, many observers are worried that fewer Ugandans might turn up to vote, and therefore the minority might determine who becomes the country’s next leaders.

Looking through statistics from Uganda Electoral Commission on the voter registration number and voter turn up, one can notice a drastic decline in the number of voters turning up to vote on election day over the years.

Despite the growing increase in the number of people registering across all the districts in Uganda over the election years (1996, 2001, 2006, 2011), the percentage of people turning up to vote has been reducing. Even then, many Ugandans do not register to vote.

The estimated eligible Population to vote in 1996 stood at 9,875,250 but out of these, 8,492,231 were registered to vote while a total of 6,193,816 turned up to vote for their presidential candidates representing 72.9%.

While in 2001 out of 10,775,836 voters who were registered, only 7,511,606 voted for presidential candidates indicating 69.7%.

During the 2006 election, 10,450,788 were registered to vote but only 6,880,232 turned up to cast their votes (65.8%).

Out of 13,954,129 registered voters in 2011, a total of 8,272,760 turned up to vote, which is 55.32%.

The interactive graphs below show statistics of registered voters and voter turn up in the last four elections.

Voter turn up in 1996




The figures clearly indicate a drop in the countrywide voter turn up from 72.9% in 1996 to 69.7% in 2001, 65.8% in 2006 and 55.32% in 2011.

This implies that the voter turn up can hardly increase in 2016 where 15,277,196 are registered and eligible to vote in the February 2016 general elections.

In the tabs below are maps indicating the number of registered voters and the number of those who voted for Presidential candidates per district in the past four elections for the years 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011.

Voter Turn up in 1996




It can be clearly noted that the voter turn up is higher in some districts and not others. Statistics show that more people in the Districts of Kamwenge, Kyenjojo, Mbarara, Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono and Masaka do turn up to vote compared to other districts in Uganda.

Kamwenge had the highest voter turn up in 2001 with 92.1% of the registered voters turning up to vote in 2001 but reduced to 65.3% in 2006. One wonders why this big reduction.

The tabs below show bar graphs indicating the differences in the number of registered voters in the different districts and those who turned out to vote in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011.

The Past 4 Elections





In 2001 presidential elections, out of 701,895 registered to vote in Kampala, 511,113 turned up to vote; representing 72.8%. While the percentage dropped to 34.2% in 2006 and dropped further in 2011 despite the gradual increase in the number of people registering to vote.

Mbarara which is one of the districts with the highest voter turn up since 1996 saw 469,806 out of 569,137 registered voters turning up to vote in 2001, standing at 82.5%. The percentage then dropped to 16.6% in 2006.

The story is the same in Wakiso District whose voter urn up stood at 57% in 2001 but kept declining to 30.7% in 2006 and further in 2011. Mukono falls in the same boat with a voter turn up of 61% in 2001 and 26.3% in 2006.

Voter Inflation vs. Low Voter Registration

Yet, despite the seeming low voter turn up, there has been wide concern over the years that the voter register is inflated to reflect more numbers of voters than there actually is. A comparison of Uganda’s voter registration statistics and the country’s population statistics is indeed telling.

According to population statistics (Census 2014) released by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), Uganda has a total population of 34,856,813. The Electoral Commission says 15,277,196 Ugandans are the registered to vote in 2016 general elections.

This means that43.83% of Uganda’s total population are registered voters in 2015, despite concerns that many did not make it to the voter registration/national ID registration exercise of 2015.

Some people question whether Ugandans above 18 years – the voting age above 15 million people as per the electoral Commission statistics.

The UBOS Census 2014 report shows that 48.1% of Ugandans are aged 14 years and below. Therefore, having 43.83% registered voters (above 18 years) by the Electoral Commission shows a glaring mathematical mismatch.

But just like the taste is in the pudding, the real questions arise as you look at the details of each district. The tabs below show the map of Uganda indicating population figures (Census 2014) and number of registered voters (2015) per district. You can also look at the graphs showing population statistics of the Most and Least populated districts in Uganda vis-à-vis the registered voters.

Most Populated Districts in Uganda

Least Populated Districts in Uganda


Whatever the case, the drastic decline in the voter turn up over the years does not only leave many questions unanswered but also makes one wonder whether the outcome of the election results really represent the will and expectations of the people of Uganda given the fact that many do not turn up to vote.

Some NRM critics have for long said that even death does not seem to stop people from voting in Uganda. The dead, the sick and sometimes the underage have been cited in evidence presented by Dr. Kizza Besigye’s 2001 and 2006 vote rigging petition to the Supreme Court.

One wonders how if such voting anomalies have twice been confirmed by the Supreme Court, there is still such a big population (in official statistics of EC) who don’t turn up to vote. Are Ugandans that good at abdicating from exercising their right to vote and duty to choose who should lead them? Are majority of Ugandans so indifferent to deciding who should lead them? Are so many people in Uganda having less trust in the election process? Is election time becoming a decision of whether to vote or not to vote instead of being about choosing the best leader(s) for next term of political office? The Campus Times talked to a cross section of Ugandans to find answers to some of these questions.

Below we bring you audio and video recordings of some of the people we interviewed on whether to vote or not to vote, how and why they arrive at such a decision.

Voices of Youths

Lufunya D

Kayihura F

Obiga Brain

After looking at the above analysis of the registered voters’ response to voting in the previous presidential elections in Uganda since 1996, one cannot dismiss the concern by some that less than 50% of Uganda’s legible voters will decide who the next president is after the February 2016 election, if at all it is the election to decide.

As George Lean Nathan once famously said, “bad leaders are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” We hope that you as a Ugandan will do your best to exercise your right to vote and duty to contribute to choosing the next President of Uganda, the Members of Parliament and Local government leaders in your respective areas.

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