By Yasiin Mugerwa & Solomon Arinaitwe, Thursday, 30 April 2015, Daily Monitor (Uganda)
Rejected. Regime opponents indicated they will issue a formal statement once the Constitution (Amendments) Bill, 2015, is formally tabled in Parliament
The Opposition yesterday denounced the government’s proposed constitutional changes as a plan to hoodwink Ugandans while keeping President Museveni in power forever. Though heavily outnumbered, they also promised to wage a serious battle in Parliament over The Constitution (Amendments) Bill, 2015, which they described as a travesty of democracy. Regime opponents indicated they will issue a formal statement once the Bill is formally tabled in Parliament today.
Civil society activists meanwhile observed that by ignoring all suggested reforms, the Bill leaves the Electoral Commission exposed to existing “external pulls and pressures” as the
country prepares to go to the polls next year. In the face of mounting criticism, regime officials, however, advised their opponents to go to court and maintained that government was not under any obligation to incorporate what the Opposition and civil society proposed in the Bill.
Yesterday, acting president general of the Democratic Party Mathias Nsubuga said they are thinking about boycotting the 2016 elections in protest. “We are not happy at all. The President has given himself more powers and changed the name of the EC to hoodwink Ugandans that the Commission will be independent. Changing the name is not enough, we had provided a clear process of appointing the commissioners but our proposals were ignored with impunity,” Mr Nsubuga said.
Mr Nsubuga added: “We wanted EC disbanded, we wanted the term limits returned to the Constitution and we wanted declaring of results to take place at the constituency and other major reforms… Unfortunately, the government has … maintained the status-quo and insulted Ugandans….” Media Centre boss, Ofwono Opondo, however, said it’s not true the government ignored Opposition proposals.
“The proposals they are talking about were not formally presented to the government,” he said. “They are panicking because they don’t have the numbers in Parliament. The Bill is going to be discussed in the committee of Parliament, let them make counter proposals. They can even go to court and seek an injunction.” Vice President Edward Ssekandi also defended the powers given to the President to appoint and dismiss EC commissioners, insisting that [checks and balances] were provided in the Bill.
“The question of who is appointing is not a problem. There must be someone appointing. If an individual is given powers to appoint a Commission, it does not mean the person will influence the working of that commission. The President will not tell them to do this or the other,” Mr Ssekandi said.
Mr Crispy Kaheru, the coordinator Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda, said, “we would implore Parliament to include precise criteria relating to the composition of the Commission. The composition of the EC must reflect the diverse skills and social demographics necessary to ensure that EC functions effectively and appropriately to navigate the complex task of impartiality in managing electoral processes.”
Former FDC president Dr Kizza Besigye and other Opposition leaders will meet this morning to chart a way forward. Dr Besigye is later expected to address a joint press conference at the Katonga Road Inter-Party Cooperation headquarters.