A voter casts her vote. Has the IEC carried out enough senstisation?

Kireka is a Kampala suburb, located in Kira sub county Wakiso district. I am standing at a boda boda stage waiting to cross the road, my ears pick up a conversation by a group of five to eight cyclists. A seemingly older one, who appears to be most knowledgeable, asks the rest to listen to him. He tells his colleagues that the new biometric voter identification system that they ‘hear about’ is a move by the regime to deny many Ugandans a chance to vote as, according to him, these machines will not let Besigye supporters cast their votes.
I watch closely as the rest of the group tends to believe what he is saying, another individual adds that the machines are an act of delaying the electoral process past the top election hour of 6:00 pm.
Hearing the mention of 6.00pm, I decide to join the conversation. I ask the cyclists whether they were aware that the time was actually shifted from 6pm to 4pm, and they all turn suspiciously, stare at me and a few seconds of silence ensure until one of them asks me not to lie to them. Their colleague who has been quite all along comes to my rescue; he tells them that what I am talking about is actually true. Next was a big argument over the topic just as I crossed the road.
Under the Constitution, the Electoral Commission is mandated to carry out voter education all over the country. This, according to the Commission officials, has been done ahead of next week’s polls. However what is on ground suggests the opposite.
First, there was an amendment in the electoral law that saw a number of provisions changed including the crucial issue of time but many voters have not known this up to now.
Various innovations have also been carried out by the Commission; the biometric voter identification machines, voter location slips, and the possible need for a national ID to vote, among others.
Credit should be given to the IEC for vigorously using their social media platforms to carry out voter education; in fact in an interview with the spokesperson Mr Jotham Taremwa, he referred me to their website and social media uses internet. But how many Ugandans access internet? According to the Uganda Communications Commission, only 34 per cent of Ugandans use internet.
Mr Charles Mashate, the IEC head of Voter Education and Training informed me that the Commission has actually done its best to educate the masses.
“Voter education is like preparing a meal; we have been preparing this meal from the start,” he said adding: “We started with organizing polling stations, then display of the voters register, nomination of candidates and other political activities.”
Mr Mashate is adamant that the return of these exercises shows that there is an impact and cites the example of many candidates who turned up to vie for different posts all over the country.
“Would they have known the availability of these posts if we were not educating them?” he asked.
However, contrary to his claim, a source at Kira Town Council told me that most of the posts are set to be occupied by the incumbents who are returning unopposed since the ‘availability of these posts was not made known to the world be challengers’. This, the source says, is a move that was orchestrated by the sub county polling officials and the incumbents.
According Mr Mashate, the country was divided into four regions for purposes of voter education and voter education providers have been contracted, the West is handled by Impact Associates, the Central by Balaam marketing, the East by UPIMAC and the North by Strategic Friends Limited.
The Commission says they accredited over 72 civil society organizations to also help in voter education, among which is the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy (CCEDU) whose ‘topowa’ campaign which calls for Ugandans to go and vote, has been versatile.
Further, Mr Mashate says that the IEC carried out voter education by issuing documents in local languages, various talkshows, and roadshows with rig vans, media announcements and stake holders’ workshops.
MrTaremwa, the Commission spokesperson, also confirmed training of polling agents around the country, an exercise that is to run up today, Saturday, February 13.