A myriad of proposals came up in yesterday’s launched National Consultation for Free and Fair Elections at Hotel Afircana in Kampala.
Bearing in mind that time is not on their side, opposition leaders hoping to tussle with most likely president Yoweri Museveni in the 2016 general elections, are brainstorming ways of putting in place a freer and more dependable election environment in a set of new reforms.
They hope at the end of the 3 day forum to have come up with ways of arm-twisting the executive and parliament to accommodate their reforms in time for the 2016 elections.
Only then, can they bring other critical issues to the table as fronting a singular candidate to face the NRM in the poll.
The forum opened on Monday morning amidst suspicion, after President Yoweri Museveni turned down an invite extended to him as the chief guest.
Other government officials as the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Inspector General of Police, and other key figures in the election process snubbed the dialogue and didn’t delegate.
NRM spokesperson Mr Ofwono Opondo, told our reporter that government had no business with an exercise championed by the opposition and civil society.
He noted that through a cabinet subcommittee, government was handling the issue electoral reforms which would be discussed and passed by parliament where they enjoy majority.
Sensing a possibility of government trashing the Opposition reforms, Lubaga South Mp Hon Ken Lukyamuzi suggested that support be sought from the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
He advised that the opposition follows in the shoes of the old Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and seeks a UN declaration to “end the current NRM impunity during elections.”
“Let’s apply and have this matter tabled before the UNGA. We can pass these resolutions here only to be blocked by the NRM majority when we have no more time left to take another action. We can only pass this blockade using the UN,” he told the conference.
Some of the contentious reforms being sought by the opposition include among others, restoration of term limits, disbanding the current Electoral Commission and eliminating the national army from partaking in the electoral process.
On her part, President General Uganda Federal Alliance Hon Betty Kamya observed that president Museveni can only be compelled to accept the reforms through a national referendum.
“If we started now to collect signatures, to have this matter decided in a referendum, then the president would have no choice. A referendum is people-driven. Its only futile if this exercise is handed to the president to manage through his parliament,” said Kamya.
Former Forum for Democratic Change president Col Kiiza Besigye however, counseled fellow campaigners to focus more on having the reforms in place and not rushing against time.
He noted that president Museveni would be the biggest beneficiary of an election that’s not free as fair and would do anything to suffocate the campaign.
Besigye told reporters at the conference, “I decided to put aside everything to focus on this campaign. We should not look only at whether these reforms will come next year of after 2016, but making sure that they are in place.”
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.