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Ballot Secrecy: Joyce Ssebuggwawo's Catch-22

The photo taken by Daily Monitor photojournalist and posted on social media yesterday, two days after President Museveni named Joyce Ssebuggwawo as State Minister for Information clearly show that the then acting FDC President pointed her pen on the lower end of the ballot while FDC candidate Amuriat was the first on the ballot.
11 Jun 2021 16:16
Joyce Nabbosa Sebugwawo with husband Eng. Dan Sebugwawo during 2019 Easter Service

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  A photo that seems to indicate that Joyce Ssebuggwawo, the Forum for Democratic Change -FDC Buganda vice president who was acting party president during campaign and election period never voted for her party presidential candidate Patrick Oboi Amuriat, has stirred a flurry of questions around protection of the secrecy of the ballot.

  

The photo taken by Daily Monitor photojournalist and posted on social media yesterday, two days after President Museveni named Ssebuggwawo as State Minister for Information clearly show that she pointed her pen on the lower end of the ballot while FDC candidate Amuriat was the first on the ballot. Because of the large number of candidates, 11 in number, it was rather easy to tell if a voter had picked the candidate on top or at the bottom of the long ballot paper. 

  

There are a number of issues that the photo raises. First, the photo could be open to interpretation: for instance, what if Ssebuggwawo was just moving around the pen and later moved up and ticked Amuriat? 

Second, there was breach of her privacy by the journalist. 

Third, she herself was not extra careful to guard her privacy. 

Fourth, to what extent can voting using a basin as a booth as Ugandans have been doing guarantee privacy? And most importantly, how to apportion the blame of negligence.

  

Crispin Kaheru, an independent elections observer says the blames goes to all parties: the photographer who was unethical in breaching a voter’s privacy, the voter who was not extra cautious and elections manager who did not ensure strict implementation of privacy guidelines. The Electoral Commission, Kaheru says need to think about moving from voting in basins to voting in booths that offer total privacy. 

  

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Peter Bogere of Uganda Project Implementation and Management Centre (UPIMAC), an organization that conducts voter education thinks the blame goes to the voter and the polling assistants at the polling station who did not implement guidelines on protecting privacy that had been issued by the Electoral Commission. 

  

“Privacy is a two-way responsibility. It’s a responsibility of the voter, who is in the booth and those who are outside to allow you exercise your right to privacy. Because the other party (EC) put in place parameters to ensure privacy and you (voter and those around polling station) did not implement them.” 

  

Electoral Commission Spokesperson Paul Bukenya says they put in place mechanisms to guarantee privacy by banning cameras and recorders inside polling stations. But Bukenya declined to comment on the photo saying he hasn’t confirmed its authenticity. He also declined to comment on what will be the implication of this privacy breach in the coming elections. 

  

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Online debate   

The photo has triggered debate, as some FDC supporters question loyalty within the party given that Museveni recently said he started talking to some people within the Forum for Democratic Change, FDC, which before the January 14, 2021 general election, was the biggest opposition party in parliament. 

  

Ronald Muhinda who is Personal Assistant of Dr. Kizza Besigye, FDC founding president and four-time presidential candidate seemed to indicate the photo had already circulated within the FDC inner circle. “Out of anger, someone told me recently he would release this photo showing acting FDC president not voting FDC presidential candidate Patrick Oboi Amuriat during presidential election,” Muhinda posted on Facebook yesterday. 

  

Muhida added; “I tried to plead with him not to cause the embarrassment and he said 'that woman must be exposed. I know how complicated politics is. While I already knew the Acting FDC President had not voted the FDC Presidential Candidate, I knew if released it would cause embarrassment.” 

  

The party President Amuriat in a statement confirming that Ssebugwawo has accepted Museveni appointment and consequently cease to be a party vice president and party member appealed to friends to desist “from unnecessary attacks on the person of Owek. Joyce Naboosa Ssebugwawo as this does not add any value to our political mission and is not in our culture as FDC.”

Joyce Ssebugwawo herself now finds herself in a Catch 22 situation; to deny the said voting or not to deny it! If she denies it would mean she is ashamed of her new camp. If she accepts it would be admission of treachery, seeing as she was such a senior member of the party, actually its topmost official during the time of voting.

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