The National Consultation for Free and Fair Elections eventually kicked off Monday morning at Hotel Africana in Kampala.
The national dialogue is part of a series of activities that opposition political parties and civil society organizations embarked on at the beginning of this year with the view of causing reforms in the country’s electoral process.
Some of reforms being sought in the national consultation include among others, constitution amendments to disband the current Electoral Commission, eliminate the national army from the electoral process and establish more efficient electoral management systems.
The meeting was convened by senior citizens including former LEGCO representative Hon Francis Akello, Sheik Obed Kamulegeya, Prince Nakibinge, Fr Gaetano Batanyenda and Mrs Rodah Nakalema.
According to one of the organizers, and NGO Forum Executive Director Dr Richard Sewakiryanga, an invitation was extended to a number of government officials who didn’t show up at the conference.
President Yoweri Museveni who was invited to officiate at the opening of the three-day conference was also absent, and not represented.
The poor government representation raised concerns amongst several participants on government’s purported commitment to electoral reforms, as the countdown shrinks toward the February 2016 general elections.
Forum for Democratic Party (FDC) President Gen Mugisha Muntu told Chimpreports the invitation to president Museveni was logical.
“As leaders who have been steering this Free and fair elections campaign, we thought that President Museveni was the right person to officiate at the opening of this national forum. We don’t know why he isn’t here, but if he chooses to show up in the next two days, he’s very much welcome,” he said.
NRM spokesperson Mr Ofwono Opondo however, said government had no business with an exercise championed by the opposition and civil society.
He told Chimpreports on phone that government was pursuing its own process of electoral reforms through a Cabinet subcommittee, which would be presented and passed at parliament not at Hotel Africana.
“Government is not answerable to the opposition or the civil society but to the people of Uganda. You know that the Minister of Justice issued a notice calling for national input in the reforms. There’s a cabinet subcommittee looking into that, and soon parliament will debate and pass the reforms,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the conveners –the senior citizens, Mrs Akello underscored the need for synchronized voices and concerted efforts from various stakeholders in the pursuit of rule of law.
She stated, “Uganda has a history of brutality, and breakdown of the rule of law. It is clear now that to promote citizen participation and stability, we must explore ways of working together.”
The conference attracted representatives from 14 regions of Ankole, Buganda, Teso, Lango, Bukedi, Kigezi, Sebei, Busoga, Bunyoro, Bugisu, Acholi Karamoja and West Nile.
The dialogue is expected to come up with a single document entailing agreed reforms and amendments that will guarantee a free and fair 2016 general elections and onwards.