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By Francis Mugerwa, Saturday, 27 June 2015, The Monitor (Uganda)
Hoima – The Electoral Commission chairman, Dr Badru Kiggundu, has said the EC has never cleared former prime minister Amama Mbabazi to start consultative campaigns for his 2016 presidential bid.
He said Mr Mbabazi’s letter to the EC declaring his presidential bid had gaps which needed to be addressed first. “It [letter] had uncoordinated claims and I referred him to seek clearance from his party, the police and consult the relevant laws. I did not in any way say he was cleared,” Dr Kiggundu said.
The EC boss was speaking as a chief guest at a consultative meeting of the National Consultative Forum (NCF) for political parties and organisations on Wednesday at Hoima Resort Hotel. The meeting was attended by representatives from 29 political parties in Uganda, religious leaders, the media and civil society activists.
On June 16, Mr Mbabazi wrote to the Electoral Commission notifying it of his intention to hold nationwide consultations scheduled to start with a tour of the eastern district of Mbale on July 9 and ending on August 1 in his home district of Kanungu.
Mr Mbabazi said he was acting under Section 3 of the Presidential Elections Act 2005 that provides for an aspirant to consult voters in preparation for his or her nomination as a presidential candidate and prepare his/her manifesto and campaign materials within 12 months before the nomination date.
The go ahead
On June 18, Dr Kiggundu gave the former NRM secretary general the green-light to carry on with his consultations without violating the Presidential Elections Act and other related laws.
He followed it up with another letter on June 22, informing Mbabazi that he had received from the NRM Secretary General, Ms Kasule Lumumba dated June 20. “The purpose of this communication therefore, serves to request you to harmonise the position in your letter of introduction addressed to the EC and that of your party,” Dr Kiggundu told Mbabazi.
In the NRM letter, Ms Lumumba stated that “Mr Mbabazi is not an aspirant sponsored by the NRM within the meaning of the NRM constitution and the law.” On Wednesday, Dr Kiggundu said after receiving Mbabazi’s letter, he learnt that his supporters were distributing his posters and T-shirts even before he is nominated as a presidential candidate.
However, participants questioned why President Museveni’s posters and billboards in various parts of the country were not being removed as police are doing to similar campaign materials of other political aspirants.
“As for the President, the party met in Kyankwanzi and endorsed him as a sole candidate. They erected his posters. However when I saw them, I called the powers that be and informed them that it was wrong and premature to erect them…,” Dr Kiggundu replied.
Mr Mbabazi’s lawyer Severino Twinobusingye dismissed Dr Kiggundu’s remarks that the EC has never cleared the former prime minister’s campaign activities. “Section 3 of the Presidential Elections Act requires Mr Mbabazi to notify the EC. He notified the EC and does not need an answer from the EC. We don’t even know why Dr Kiggundu bothered to respond,” Mr Twinobusingye said yesterday.
At the meeting, Ms Josephine Kankunda, a senior researcher at the Foundation of Human Rights Initiative, presented findings of a study on the functioning of multi-party democracy in Uganda. She said even though article 62 of the constitution provides for the independence of the Electoral commission, its autonomy and impartiality are under threat.
“Many respondents interviewed attributed this to the appointing process of commissioners to the EC by the President. Coupled with lack of security of tenure for commissioners, such a process was faulted for rendering the EC susceptible to undue influence by the appointing authority, thus eroding its independence” Ms Kankunda said to the cheering participants.
Dr Kiggundu questioned the meaning of an independent electoral commission as advocated by the proponents of elect oral reforms.
“When you say an Independent EC. Independent from what? Where does the EC get money to run its activities? Who makes laws governing elections? The commission cannot be an island. It is part of society,” he charged.
“There is no country with a perfect election. If you find one, I am willing to be their student. Even the US which has had democracy for over 200 years, you remember what happened in Florida? How about us with an experience of about 20 years?” Dr Kiggundu reasoned. He also opposed proposals to have representatives of political parties in the EC.
“When you do that, it will turn the commission into a mini-parliament and delay decision making as representatives keep consulting their masters in political parties,” he added.
National Consultative Forum (NCF)
The EC director of operations Leonard Mulekwah said the NCF was established under article 71(2) of the constitution of Uganda and operates under section 20 of the Political Parties and Organisations Act 2005. The NCF liaises with the EC on matters pertaining to political parties, ensures parties comply with the code of conduct prescribed under section 19 of the Political Parties and Organisations Act.