A section of MPs have cautioned that president Museveni’s powers need to be trimmed after his recent utterances regarding the current Electoral Commission. While presiding over the passing out of women council leaders in Kampala over the weekend, President Museveni lashed out at the Electoral Commission which he described as full of rotten people and threatened to get rid of them.
Museveni was quoted saying: “Electoral Commission is full of rotten people I am going to get rid of them. Why should we suffer from corrupt election officials when NRM has got so much manpower they should be out, get out. In the Election of Jinja East, I discovered so many ghost voters who were imported from other areas, who imported them? It is these election officials.”
However, a section of MPs have rejected Museveni’s threats saying the President is very reaction following NRM’s failure to win elections in Arua Municipality, Bugiri Municipality, Jinja East Constituency, leaving the slots to be taken by candidates supported by embattled Kyadondo East MP, Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine.
Monicah Amoding, Kumi Woman MP noted: “I think the President is being reactionary over that matter because he was defeated in Jinja as NRM Party Chairman. Why is he taking exception to those particular areas? Many complaints have come up to the affect that several elections have been rigged in the past but no action has been taken. Why this particular Electoral Commission?”
She argued that given the fact that the President is the appointing authority and disappointing authority, he is assuming so much power and argued that it was time the constitution went under more amendments to check the powers of the President.
“That kind of reaction means that everybody is at his mercy and so everybody must serve the interest of the President. It is unfortunate, it isn’t good for this country. I for one, I am very comfortable with that team, I think they know what they are doing and they are going to serve equitably to any Ugandan who goes to the EC for services,” Amoding argued.
Kanungu Woman MP, Elizabeth Karungi, said there is need for the President to investigate all reports he gets from his advisers.
“I have seen the Electoral Commission try to do something but I believe the President needs to go further and do some investigation on their failure. To me, they have tried to do something, but those who have given information to the President, I don’t know they are failing from which point of view but I think the President needs to do some investigation before he can come up with concrete information on that,” Karungi argued.
On the other hand, Atkins Katusabe (Bukonjo West) asked Ugandans to ignore the President’s remarks saying he has no powers to disband the current EC.
Katusabe argued that Ugandans aren’t interested going back to the era of former Electoral Commission Chairman, Badru Kiggundu whom he accused of serving the interest of President Museveni saying all Kiggundi did was ‘make a phone call to pick instructions’ unlike the current EC team that follows the law.
He explained: “The President made the statement in error because it isn’t his job, because Parliament vetted them and concluded that the EC team is best suited to serve Ugandans, so the President doesn’t have powers so let him not think Parliament will allow him disband this team. Therefore, Ugandans shouldn’t take the President’s remarks seriously, I think he was joking because he doesn’t have the powers to disband the Electoral Commission.”
However, the coordinator of Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy Uganda (CCEDU) Crispin Kaheru has welcomed the president’s remarks saying over the years they have complained about the weak legal and administrative electoral framework in the country.
It should be recalled that President Museveni appointed Judge Simon Mugenyi Byabakama as Electoral Commission Chairman in November 2016 to replace Eng. Badru Kiggundu whose tenure had elapsed having spent 14 years at the helm of the Commission.
Parliament went ahead to approve the appointments of Byabakama in December 2016 alongside the other members; Hajjat Aisha Lubega (Vice Chairperson) and commissioners Peter Emorut, Steven Tashobya, Prof George Piwang and Mustapha Ssebaggala Kigozi and these joined Sam Rwakojo and Justin Mugabi whose tenure was already running at the time of the appointment.
Byabakama was a Court of Apepal Judge, having risen to the ranks and his appointment was met with protest from opposition figures like Kizza Besigye, who accused him of being impartial, having been one of the prosecutor who tried him for treason charges in 2005.
Crispin Kaheru, Coordinator, Citizens Coalition for Electoral Commission in Uganda (CCEDU), a body of activists who have been monitoring elections in Uganda welcomed the President’s remarks saying Museveni is now speaking the same language as the rest of the majority of Ugandans.
“Over the past decade or so, Ugandans have noted that a number of electoral malpractices are aided by a weak legal and administrative electoral framework. These malpractices happen because the Electoral Commission as a body is sometimes unable to assert itself especially in the face of an overbearing executive,” Kaheru argued.
He went ahead to highlight how the Commission can be made great again outlining that part of the efforts to re-align the Electoral Commission back on a professional and constitutional course will require restructuring the electoral framework to put in place a competitively appointed, professional and impartial Election Management Body that serves nation, first.