Friday, January 7, 2011

Reforms are needed to ensure success in 2011 polls

In this commentary published in Daily Monitor on Monday, Mr. Alexander Ndiku argues that serious reforms are antecedent to peaceful elections

Following the articles entitled, ‘Museveni vows to arrest Besigye’ and ‘Polls: Besigye hits back at Museveni’ in Daily Monitor of December 22 and December 23 respectively, the declarations made by both parties do not advocate ‘rule of law nor promote democratic principles’ as enshrined in the 1995 Constitution. Dr Kizza Besigye declared intent to gather election results from polling stations and announce them. In response, Mr Yoweri Kaguta Museveni declared he would arrest Dr Besigye in the event of doing so.

The 1995 Constitution Chapter 5 (section 60), states the obligations mandated to the EC, among which, is to organise, conduct and supervise elections as well as ascertain, publish and declare results of the elections. It is also stated that, the EC in its performance of duties as mandated must be independent and fair.

Uganda’s election history begins in 1958 when the first EC comprising local elders and traditional leaders was set up. Under this EC, several elections were conducted, including the Limited African/Uganda Franchise and Representation to the Legislative Council (Legco) of 1958. On June 25, 1980, the chairman of the Military Commission Paulo Muwanga (RIP) established the an EC and between December 10 and 11 December 1980, a Commission headed by K.M. Kikira as chairperson was set-up. The EC organised and conducted the 1980 elections in which UPC emerged as the winner.

On February 6, 1981, Mr Yoweri Museveni (now NRM presidential candidate for 2011 elections) declared war on the UPC government, citing rigging of 1980 elections. For more than a decade later, no direct elections were held.

On December 21, 1988, the enactment of the Statute No.5 of the 1988 led to the establishment of the Constitutional Commission mandated with processing and developing of the new constitution. Under Statute No. 6 of 1993, the Commission for the Constituent Assembly was established headed by Mr Steven B. Akabway as the chairman. The Commission organised and conducted the CA elections in March 1994.

After the promulgation of the Constitution in October 1995, Statute 3 of 1996 enabled the establishment of an Interim Electoral Commission (IEC). The IEC was set-up headed by Mr Steven B. Akabway as the chairman. IEC organised and conducted the 1996 general elections.

In May 1997, Parliament enacted the Electoral Commission Act 1997 which established a permanent Electoral Commission but also provided for presidential powers to appoint, with the approval of Parliament, the EC chaired by Hajji Aziz K. Kasujja was set-up and organised and conducted 2001 general elections. On November 18, 2002, Eng. Badru M. Kiggundu was appointed another EC chairman and he manned the 2006 elections.

In both the 2001 and 2006 general elections, Dr Besigye claimed to have won the polls, but cited vote rigging to have denied him victory. In 2006, the Supreme Court found poll irregularities but concluded that such irregularities could not have changed the outcome.

The failure to abide by the rule of law is among the many causes of recurrent poor governance in this country. The manner in which our political leaders embrace the law to suit themselves remains a challenge to our democracy.

In a situation where the EC seems not to be able to perform its duties as mandated by the Constitution, it should be disbanded and a new one instituted.

Mr Ndiku is a Ugandan civil engineer living in Johannesburg, South Africa

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