The opposition and civil society championed 3-day National Consultative Forum on Free and fair Elections on Tuesday touched slightly on what turned to be sensitive topic of ‘imbalanced regional representation of national leadership.’
Tempers flared inside Hotel Africana’s Nile Hall when some opposing leaders lodged concerns on the continued dominance of national leadership positions by politicians from the western region.
The hot debate was kick-started by Social Democratic Party (SDP) president Michael Mabikke, who called for “constitutionalization of regional balance” when it comes to selection of the national leadership.
At the close of his fourth term in 2016, President Yoweri Museveni –chairman of the ruling NRM government — will have clicked 30 years at helm of the country, six more than all the country’s previous presidents combined.
Yet, nearly all his hinted replacements who currently include, FDC’s Gen Mugisha Muntu, Former Premier Hon Amama Mbabazi, Special Forces Commander Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba and former presidential contestant Col Kiiza Besigye all hail from the same region.
Mr Mabikke demanded at the conference that electoral reforms being discussed should also accommodate a provision for rotation of the county’s leadership.
He stated, “Since independence, the country has been dominated by our brothers from the north and western regions. The latter have done this for the last 28 years.”
“It is important that we follow the examples of our friends in developed nations like the US. When a president is elected from the East coast, the next comes from the west coast and the next from the midlands and so on.”
“As we talk about electoral reforms, it’s important that we also look at affirmative action for the sidelined regions of central and eastern Uganda which feel left out in the country’s politics,” he added.
Mabikke’s observation was also chorused by a number of other leaders and analysts, as a “matter of essence that should not be treated as trivial.”
“We have been forcefully driven into thinking in this line because of the injustices and inequities in the country,” stressed JEEMA President Asuman Basalirwa.
“This is why Africans mobilized against the white colonial masters. It’s not because they were racists. People’s at a point like this are bound to think in terms of tribes,” he told our reporter.
FDC president Gen Mugisha Muntu however, dismissed the calls as less critical.
Muntu told Chimpreports at the sidelines of the Conference that what Ugandans needed most was an environment to exercise freedoms to select their favourite leaders.
“I think there’s some confusion of choice. To me the most imperative thing is for people to have choice and to exercise it without impediment. Once that is in place, the majority will vote for the person they want irrespective of where they come from,” he advised.
Former presidential contestant Col Kizza Besigye also urged Ugandans not to be swayed by sectarianism.
“What I know is that Ugandans are reasonable people,” he said.
If there are democratic systems and structures, we don’t need what my brother Mabikke says about rotation. The people will decide the type of leadership they want and that’s their ultimate right. If it’s a Seya that they want as their president, it’s their right to elect him.”