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Elections Without Campaigns Are a Wrong Choice for Uganda

This was the main issue of contentious during a one-day dialogue between the Electoral Commission, the civil society and political players held today. The dialogue was organized by the United Nations Development Program [UNDP] to harmonize deviating views a month since the Electoral Commission released the controversial roadmap.
16 Jul 2020 19:44

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Opposition political players, the civil society and opinion leaders have jointly signalled that Uganda will be headed in the wrong direction if it follows the 2021 election roadmap as released by the Electoral Commission. 

This was the main issue of contentious during a one-day dialogue between the Electoral Commission, the civil society and political players held today. The dialogue was organized by the United Nations Development Program [UNDP] to harmonize deviating views a month since the Electoral Commission released the controversial roadmap. 

But like it has been in previous such engagements, the Electoral Commission has been on the receiving end of a barrage of criticisms. Speaker after speaker, all accused the Commission chaired by the Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi, of being oblivious to the concerns of Ugandans about an election which prohibits human interaction. 

Retired Principal Judge, James Ogoola wondered why the Electoral Commission should be pushing ahead with an election well knowing that such an election will not meet the threshold of being free and fair as enshrined in the constitution.    

//Cue in… “that the Electoral...    

Cue out… at close quarters.”//     

Ogoola said the framers of the 1995 Constitution from which the Electoral Commission derives its mandate to organize elections did not envisage a situation where candidates are unable to meet their electorates. 

“We are doing everything to dodge all the articles that were put in the constitution not have a scientific election. There is a knee in our neck, we can’t breathe, must we go through this or there is some other way. Let the people of Uganda talk about the fundamentals of this election, not the technicalities of how to do it safely,” Ogoola said. He suggested that the election be postponed to such a date that COVID-19 is no longer a threat to impede a normal election. 

Dan Mugarura, the chairman of the Electoral Commission of the Alliance for National Transformation political party said that the Electoral Commission likes quoting article 61 that orders them to organize elections within the first 30 days of the last 122 days of the term of the president or parliament or local government but conveniently forgets to read other laws that relate to elections and people’s liberties.

//Cue in…when you are...    

Cue out… do we organize.”//     

Regina Bafaki, the Executive Director of Action for Development [Acfode] said that organizing an election in the manner that the Electoral Commission has suggested will leave out several vulnerable groups like youth and women. She said that in the current social-economic configuration of Uganda, the media through which this election is going to be organized is mainly owned by men. 

Bafaki also wondered whether, in a country where there is a tax on using social media channels, the Electoral Commission was going to speak to the government to not only waive the tax but also provide free airtime.    

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To others like Fred Kasajja, the deputy secretary-general of Justice Forum party, the Electoral Commission is doing nothing short of facilitating President Museveni to rig the next election. Kasajja wondered why the Electoral Commission would push ahead with an election which every stakeholder says should be halted. 

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Cue out… Mr justice Byabakama,’//  

Justice Byabakama explained that there was no mischief in the actions of the Electoral Commission. He said that although they didn’t consult anybody while releasing the revised electoral roadmap, they have now taken the trouble to consult as many stakeholders as possible. He added that whoever tells them to postpone the election will be targeting the wrong person because the mandate to postpone or not lays with other government agencies. 

//Cue in… for us as...  

Cue out…their term expires.”//   

The dialogue was attended by the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Uganda, Rosa Malango, UNDP representative Elsie Attafuah, Justice Forum Party President Asuman Basalirwa, DP President General Norbert Mao, UPC party President Jimmy Akena among others. 

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