As Uganda prepares for 2020-21 party and general elections, stakeholders and candidates in Bushenyi district doubt if the electoral commission will deliver a free and fair election. They say the commission is not independent and its integrity is wanting.
The stakeholders and candidates made the remarks during the Regional Stakeholder Engagement on the revised Electoral Commission Road map conversation held in Bushenyi on Thursday, 06th August, 2020.
The engagement was organized by the office of the Resident District Commissioner, Bushenyi district supported by Western Ankole Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) with an aim of contributing to public discourse on the debate around the revised Electoral commission roadmap and campaign guidelines.
The meeting also sought to create awareness about the revised commission roadmap and campaign guidelines and the implications to citizens’ participation in electoral processes.
It was attended by key leaders of civil society organizations involved in electoral processes, the district leaders like the District Internal Security Officer, District Police Commander, and the RDC, SCENE civic mentors and Topowa forum conveners in Bushenyi district, major political parties representatives, the district registrar, National Resistance Movement Administrative secretary, and journalists from the local media.
Mr. Guma Gumisiriza, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Chairperson Bushenyi said that the Electoral Commission is not as independent as “it claims to be” because it has from time to time danced the tune of the sitting president.
“By this time, history should have taught us a lot, but we have not learned. We wouldn’t want to see the 1980 scenarios resurfacing. The electoral commission is not independent as it claims to be. For example, why would Mr. Museveni, who is the incumbent and candidate at the same time be seen firing EC officials during the time of elections?” Mr. Gumisiriza asked
Mr. Yedidia Nyakahangura, the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) candidate aspiring to represent Bushenyi-ishaka Muncipality in Parliament decried frustration from the Electoral Commission, accusing the body of failing to provide a levelled ground for all political parties to ably participate in election processes.
“The commission itself is not just. We wrote to them over our program, but they didn’t not respond until yesterday. The EC is also denying other parties their chance and space to participate freely.” He said
Mr. Nyakahangura also faulted police for guarding the incumbent candidates as they (candidates) hold campaigns before the official time without observing the presidential directives and Ministry of health guidelines put in place to protect Ugandans from COVID-19 pandemic.
The leader of Make Bushenyi Great Again pressure group, Mr. Pison Mugizi charged that the Electoral Commission has rushed to organize elections at a time when the situation in Uganda cannot favor election practices, adding that the outcome of the blunder might be regrettable.
“All problems in this country have stemmed from elections. The program has been rushed and squeezed, an indication that the election will not be free and fair. This election should have been postponed because it is likely to cause more harm than the COVID-19. There hasn’t been civic voter education yet we have a big number of new voters in the registers. The Electoral Commission should be independent in practice, not only in words to avoid problems.” Mr. Mugizi charged
Responding to issues raised in the plenary, the Bushenyi RDC, Mr. Jolly Tibemanya, who was chairing the meeting defended President Museveni’s firing of electoral commission officials saying that President Museveni was doing his presidential duties.
“The President did not fire EC officials as a candidate. He was doing his duty as a sitting president and he will not abdicate his duties because he is a presidential candidate.” He responded
Mr. Tibemanya pledged government’s commitment to remain impartial during the election and asked Ugandans to remain calm.
The WACSOF Executive Director, Mr. Apollo Lee Kakonge asked the electoral commission to intensify voter education, so that citizens can understanding the new scientific election and its dynamics for a free and fair election.
The stakeholders called for more voter education, putting an end to voter bribery and violence in elections, strict observance of ministry of health guidelines in the scientific campaigns, among other action points. They also asked government to come out and guide the population on scientific campaigns and provide space for campaigning since many candidates are finding it hard to campaign using the media.