Parliament has given Government up to the end of April to table electoral reforms.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, gave the ultimatum following a statement by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Gen Kahinda Otafiire, during plenary sitting on Tuesday, 29 January 2019.
Otafiire said that in order to address matters relating to elections in Uganda, it is necessary to handle the matter in a chronological manner, beginning with the review and amendment of the Constitution concurrent with the process to amend the electoral laws.
“Within the next six months, Government intends to make final preparations relating to the establishment and appointment of the Constitutional Review Commission and securing of the necessary funds for the activities of the Commission,” said Otafiire.
He added that government is constrained to make electoral reforms because of the ongoing case in the Constitutional Court challenging the amendment of Article 102(b) of the Constitution, which removes the presidential age limit .
Kadaga, however, said that the electoral reforms were directed by the Supreme Court after the 2011 and 2016 elections, and this should be followed.
“As soon as the President was sworn in, your first duty was to address the ruling of the Supreme Court and we want you to respond to the command of the Supreme Court in full,” said Kadaga.
She added that there is need to separate the constitutional review process from electoral reforms.
“Even if you appoint the Constitutional Review Commission in July, they will report to the 11th Parliament. By the time this House goes for elections, the constitutional review will not be ready. It’s not our business, our concern is the electoral reforms,” said Kadaga.
Members of Parliament disagreed with the Minister’s proposal to review and amend the Constitution, saying that this will delay the process of amending electoral laws.
Shadow Attorney General, Hon. Wilfred Niwagaba (Ind. Ndorwa East) said that the Minister’s statement shows that government is not willing and ready to present electoral reforms.
“I would like to seek leave of this House that I bring a formal motion to amend electoral laws by bringing a Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2019. Subsequently, I will bring amendments to the Presidential Elections Act, Parliamentary Elections Act, the Electoral Commission Act and Local Government Act,” said Niwagaba.
Hon. Kassiano Wadri (Ind. Arua Municipality) advised government to treat the matter of electoral reforms with urgency to avoid a repeat of election violence.
“Instead of us eyeing the constitutional review process which may take longer than two years, let the ministry extract the areas which relate to elections so that the ground is leveled for all actors in the forthcoming elections,” said Wadri.
Hon. Kenneth Eitunganane Esiangu (Ind. Soroti County) warned that if electoral laws are not amended before the forthcoming elections, Parliament would be held responsible.
“There are lot of challenges whenever we go for elections and the only way they can be addressed is through electoral reforms. If government is not ready to table the reforms, let us give the Shadow Attorney General the opportunity,” said Eitunganane.
Hon. Solomon Silwany (NRM, Bukooli County) called on government to table the reforms early to give members ample time to scrutinize and debate them.
“We always delay and end up bringing these reforms at the last minute. When we do things in a rush, we end up making mistakes. Let us table these reforms early and I strongly support that the minister brings them at the earliest possible time,” said Silwany.
Hon. Patrick Nsamba Oshabe (NRM, Kassanda North County) suggested that government should be given an ultimatum to present the reforms.
“Any country’s sustainable peace depends on the electorate’s confidence in the electoral process. Whenever people keep doubting the electoral process, they resort to violence,” said Nsamba Oshabe.
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