Members of Parliament on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on Thursday attacked officials from Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) for the hypocrisy exhibited by religious leaders especially during elections.
This was after UJCC officials led by Executive Secretary, Fr. Constantine Mbonabingi (pictured), who were appearing before the Committee to present their views on the five bills geared towards electoral reforms as proposed by Government ahead of 2021 elections, complained about the increasing commercialization of politics in the country.
The MPs asked the religious leaders to first clean up their houses before attacking politicians.
The issue was first raised by Kitagwenda County MP, Abass Agaba, who told UJCC that political aspirants are overwhelmed by the number of fundraising functions that they have to attend and make pledges to during the campaign season and called on the Church to reduce on the fundraising ceremonies held during election period.
It wasn’t long before Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri County) also chipped in asking the UJCC to consider banning fundraisers all together during elections saying these have partly contributed to the current problem.
“During elections, it is your time to reap from politicians through fundraising in both churches and mosques. If one doesn’t fundraise, they are voted out. Try to look into yourselves too. It is time the churches and mosques banned fundraising during elections,” Katuntu said.
However, Rose Lily Akello (Karenga Woman) said that although the fundraisings have become a menace during election period, these don’t need to be banned completely because the MPs too use these places of worship but rather have the fundraising take place before elections.
John Mary Odoi, Executive Director Citizens Platform for Democracy and Accountability told MPs that the UJCC was considering the idea and that a number of meetings have been held by archbishops who may soon proceed to instruct the clergy to desist from conducting fundraisers during the campaign period.
The Council also weighed into the proposal to have all parliamentary and presidential candidates declare their sources of income for campaigns 14days after nomination arguing that although the finances are an essential element in elections process, the funds should be got from clean sources.
“However restricting on the sources needs to be further reflected on as it may not only be challenging to determine the unfriendly source in an objective manner but also be unfair to stop inflow of funds that mature and can only come in after the 14days,” Fr. Mbonabingi said.
UJCC also welcomed restriction on campaign times saying the provision will be critical at guaranteeing safety of the candidates and the electorate.
“We propose that one of the punishments should be to disqualify any one that commits this offence three times during the campaign period,” he added.
However, the UJCC’s proposal to waive nomination fees on grounds that it left youth and women out of elective positions was questioned by Jacob Oboth Oboth, the Chairperson Legal Committee, who wondered why the Church is calling for waiver on nomination fees yet the same church requires Christians to pay baptism fees before baptism on infants is conducted.
Katuntu also weighed into the matter saying, “You are proposing we should take away nomination fee. Imagine ballot paper with 50 candidates, even preparing for those elections is a nightmare. But when we put these requirements, we need to sort out unserious candidates. Maybe let us propose that this money can be refunded after election and that will cater for all the people you are thinking about.”