I implore Ugandans to begin to read in between the lines as pertains media reports, we tend to overlook the important reports and focus on sentimental stories. I have observed most times crucial information bypass the public eye simply because there is no attempt by the general public to perform a citizen’s watchdog role, a civically clued citizenry is the most effective weapon against fraud, it imperative that we develop habits of doing a citizen’s audit. I have looked at a piece of information published by the Observer and the government owned New Vision detailing the pulling out of a major financier to Uganda Electoral commission project.
Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) had earlier commitment to co-fund the procurement of the Electronic Results Transmission and Dissemination System.
This was confirmed by a one Mr. Mads Mayerhofer, the chairperson of DGF’s Steering Committee that they withdrew funding in December last year after Electoral Commission canceled the contract of Cytel, to supply the result transmission technology in favor of Avante, under suspicious circumstances.
Well from that story I have compelled myself to research on it. I started with investigating the a few of these companies contracted to handle the electronic results transmission in the upcoming general elections (Feb 18, 2016). My findings have revealed historical links between Electoral Commissions in other countries with these dodgy companies entrusted also by Uganda’s EC with delivering the electronic transmissions of the results. Underneath it, there is the ploy of conspiracy to commit electoral fraud in Uganda.
First on the list is MFI documents solutions a company operating in Uganda with shadowy directors, initially it was called (MFI Uganda Ltd) they operated under the license of (MFI computers) in Kenya. In Uganda and Tanzania for some unknown reasons, they re-branded to MFI document solutions.
The majority of staffs in this company are of Indian origin and they operate under strict confidentiality rules in which I have no objection to because it’s a standard company practice. However, I am informed that they work and live in an enclosed complex behind Kabalagala police station. According to my insider source who preferred anonymity, the Indians are strictly forbidden from associating with the local staffs – socializing and/or dating Ugandan girls is apparently forbidden.
The level of sensitivity of dealings within this company raises many suspicions, this company has consistently edged all reputable companies in the procurement deals of many governments IT related contracts, including handling the sensitive data of EC, managing data in ministry of defense, and internal affairs. For quite some times they have been at the center of running all the Kiggundu’s EC deals in collaboration with foreign companies to supply all the hardware equipment’s.
They supplied the hardware like ID machines, Laptops, Desktops, Printers and any other office equipment’s, they also procured ministry of defense with the equipment’s that botched up the national ID registration.
Second company is AVANTE, registered in the USA and a quick visit to their website reveals the following: “AVANTE patented and proven verifiable voting solutions and systems with proven accuracy to provide secure, auditable and credible elections worldwide”. “Besides participating in election systems and solutions in US and Aboard (Abroad), AVANTE implemented the Biometric Voter Registration System and Solution in the 2011 General Election of Nigeria and Election Results Transmission and Dissemination System and Solution in the 2011 Generation Election of Uganda”.
The Electoral Commission of Uganda is one of the clients who have provided a testimonial commending the company. It reads “We are commending you for meeting best international practices by publishing election results polling station by polling station, which ensured full transparency as well as greater confidence and trust in the results for Uganda’s citizens. The introduction of electronic transmission of results from district tally centers to the National Tally Centre marked a further improvement.”
There we go, I find it dishonest for a reputable company like Avante to be part of the ring of electoral fraud in Uganda. Everybody in Uganda is aware of how the electoral results are tampered with in the process of transmission from the polling station up to the national tallying center. In fact, two former key actors in this rings have testified of how results are switched in between the various channels of transmission, one is John Patrick Amama Mbabazi current presidential contender and General Davis Sejusa a former coordinator of intelligence. Recently, Presidential candidate, Prof Barya also insinuated that votes are altered in computers at the National Tally center. I find it absurd for the same company that has been a co-conspirator of electoral fraud to claim that they have previously performed.
Remember this US company has re-entered Uganda through the same dubious MFI documents solutions Uganda. Initially the contract for electronic vote transmission technology was awarded to Cytel, a European company but for some hidden reasons this was reversed. The Memorandum of Agreement was cancelled and the contract was handed back to the same company that did the 2011 elections (AVANTE). This prompted Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) to withdrew its funding support of UGX 4.5Bn to the EC when it realized that the contract to Cytel had been cancelled in favor of Avante, under suspicious circumstances.
It’s not uncommon in Uganda for this companies to have godfathers close to the center of power, as corruption is the way of their lives. Therefore, there are vested interests from the presidency to recommend MFI and their foreign partners in such a lucrative procurement contract because kickbacks and patronage schemes is what sustain the current regime. Further, they are guaranteed of rigging the elections with a familiar system used with ease in 2011 General Elections.
This very same company Avante bungled up the, 2011 & 2015 Nigerian general elections to the extent that it took the intervention of a local company to salvage the elections. The malfunction was so embarrassing that even “two former presidents Jonathan, his wife and Obasanjo fingerprints were rejected by the voter registration machines and this was a public relations disaster for Nigeria and its Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This glitch was not a on-of as it became contagious and spread nationwide. Many voters across Nigeria didn’t exist on the database and as a result violence flared across Nigeria.
After temporarily fixing this problem it was discovered that the system was deliberately compromised at the registration process as some politicians allegedly working in concert with the Nigerian electoral commission, cropped the voter register with foreign names. The mess included under-age registration, duplication of names and false persons supposedly registered in areas where they do not reside or vote from, and the introduction of fictitious names into boxes without matching pictures.
From that experience in Nigeria I foresee disaster striking at the heart of this system in Uganda, why? they have hastily introduced a Biometric voter system in the eleventh hour, therefore it’s simply a question of what time it will malfunction, and what have they put in place to remedy it. Because at the moment there is no adequate time to train staffs and enhance the infrastructure that the system will be running on, so this notion of Kiggundu commending this Avante company should raise eyebrows and be trashed forthwith.
Nigeria managed to contain the resultant violence. In Uganda, the expectations for a fair elections is high and many people are pumped up for change against all odds. We are at a very delicate period of transition, and any mess may trigger hell and heavens to break loose, especially out of any technical glitch arising from untested technology. When our voting systems fail voters lose trust in the electoral process, and that is corrosive. Voters are already enduring apathy and anxiety of the credibility of the Electoral Commission itself. Without that trust, our democracy will continue to stagnate and the elections will forever count to nothing if we accept late introduction of flawed system. It is apparent that voters’ wishes are to see their votes counted, and to influence their intended outcome. Citizens are agitating for change and any attempt to use the system to abuse their votes will spell danger.EC and its partners in crime must tread carefully, Ugandans are not in the moods of participating in another sham election enough is enough. My advice will remain the same “stop sleeping my brothers and sisters, learn to employ critical thinking”. END.