Museveni was quoted saying: “Electoral Commission is full of rotten people; I am going to get rid of them. Why should we suffer from corrupt election officials when NRM has got so much manpower; they should be out, get out. In the Election of Jinja East, I discovered so many ghost voters who were imported from other areas, who imported them? It is these election officials,” President Yoweri Museveni is quoted to have said while presiding over the passing out of Women Council Leaders in Kampala over the weekend.
The President’s remarks have not gone well with a section of MPs, saying that it’s because NRM’s failed to win elections in Arua Municipality, Bugiri Municipality and Jinja East Constituency.
This is after the President and pop star lawmaker Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine campaigned for different candidates, with the latter’s winning with landslide victory.
Kumi Woman MP (NRM) Monicah Amoding, says the President has so much power that needs to be checked by amending constitution to trim his powers.
“I think the President is being reactionary over that matter because he was defeated in Jinja as NRM Party Chairman. Why is he taking exception to those particular areas? Many complaints have come up to the affect that several elections have been rigged in the past but no action has been taken. Why this particular Electoral Commission?” she argued.
“That kind of reaction means that everybody is at his mercy and so everybody must serve the interest of the President. It is unfortunate; it isn’t good for this country. I for one, I am very comfortable with that team, I think they know what they are doing and they are going to serve equitably to any Ugandan who goes to the EC for services,” she added.
On his part, Bukonjo West MP, Atkins Katusabe asked Ugandans to ignore the President’s remarks, saying he has no powers to disband the current EC.
Katusabe argued that Ugandans aren’t interested in going back to the era of former Electoral Commission Chairman, Badru Kiggundu whom he accused of serving the interest of President Museveni, saying all Kiggundi did was ‘make a phone call to pick instructions’ unlike the current EC team that follows the law.
“The President made the statement in error because it isn’t his job, because Parliament vetted them and concluded that the EC team is best suited to serve Ugandans, so the President doesn’t have powers so let him not think Parliament will allow him disband this team. Therefore, Ugandans shouldn’t take the President’s remarks seriously; I think he was joking because he doesn’t have the powers to disband the Electoral Commission,” he said.
Kanungu Woman MP, Elizabeth Karungi, said there is need for the President to investigate all reports he gets from his advisers.
“I have seen the Electoral Commission try to do something but I believe the President needs to go further and do some investigation on their failure. To me, they have tried to do something, but those who have given information to the President, I don’t know they are failing from which point of view but I think the President needs to do some investigation before he can come up with concrete information on that,” Karungi argued.
However, the coordinator of CCEDU Crispin Kaheru has welcomed the president’s remarks saying over the years they have complained about the weak legal and administrative electoral framework in the country.
“Over the past decade or so, Ugandans have noted that a number of electoral malpractices are aided by a weak legal and administrative electoral framework. These malpractices happen because the Electoral Commission as a body is sometimes unable to assert itself especially in the face of an overbearing executive,” Kaheru argued.
It should be recalled that President Museveni appointed Judge Simon Mugenyi Byabakama as Electoral Commission Chairman in November 2016 to replace Eng. Badru Kiggundu whose tenure had elapsed having spent 14 years at the helm of the Commission.
Parliament went ahead to approve the appointments of Byabakama in December 2016 alongside the other members; Hajjat Aisha Lubega (Vice Chairperson) and commissioners Peter Emorut, Steven Tashobya, Prof George Piwang and Mustapha Ssebaggala Kigozi and these joined Sam Rwakojo and Justin Mugabi whose tenure was already running at the time of the appointment.
Byabakama was a Court of Apepal Judge, having risen to the ranks and his appointment was met with protest from opposition figures like Kizza Besigye, who accused him of being impartial, having been one of the prosecutors who tried him for treason charges in 2005.