PRESS STATEMENT BY THE COORDINATING TEAM FOR THE FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS CAMPAIGN
Members of the Press, fellow Ugandans,
We wish to address you in our capacity as the Coordinating Team for the Free and Fair Elections (FFE) Campaign. As you may be aware, the Free and Fair Elections Campaign is a citizens’ campaign bringing together a wide range of stakeholders including political leaders, the civil society and eminent Ugandans who are committed to pursuing reforms that will result into the establishment of a credible electoral system to guarantee free and fair elections in Uganda.
During the course of 2014, the Free and Fair Elections campaign organized a series of public rallies across the country to consult citizens on the nature of reforms needed to improve our electoral system. The Campaign also organized 14 regional forums that brought together approximately 4,000 Ugandans who deliberated on the range of reforms needed to improve and strengthen our electoral system.
On November 24-26, 2014, over 1,300 Ugandans including political party leaders, representatives of all Ugandan political parties, religious and other civic leaders assembled here in our Nations Capital in a National Consultation on Free and Fair Elections to consider proposals from the 14 regions. The Consultation adopted a Citizens Compact on Free and Fair Elections containing 18 reform proposals and a commitment to its full implementation.
The National Compact also took into account reform proposals from key platforms such as the Inter-party Political Organization for Dialogue (IPOD), the National Consultative Forum (NCF), the Citizens Coalition on Electoral Democracy (CCEDU), the Electoral Commission (EC) and the Cabinet reform proposals contained in its matrix dated June 27, 2014.
To that extent, the Citizens Compact on Free and Fair Elections reflects a widespread consensus and a commitment among Ugandans to advocate for comprehensive reforms to sanitize our electoral system.
It is therefore disappointing that the Government of Uganda presented a Bill in Parliament that is completely devoid of substance and in all particulars ignores the will of the citizens as expressed in all those proposals in general, and the Citizens Compact on Free and Fair Elections.
The Citizens Compact on Free and Fair Elections was duly submitted to the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the Uganda Law Reform Commission, the Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business and the President of Uganda.
We can therefore only conclude that the presentation of a Bill that does not contain comprehensive constitutional and electoral reforms as contained in the Citizens Compact on Free and Fair Elections and other reform proposals is deliberate and consistent with the arrogance that Government handles matters of interest to the citizens of Uganda.
As citizens, we look at Parliament as our last line of defense against such arrogance. We therefore call upon all citizens and peace loving Ugandans to engage in various civic actions to put pressure on Parliament to listen to the call by Ugandans to enact comprehensive reforms to ensure that our country can for once have a credible electoral management system.
In this regard, the Free and Fair Elections Campaign will embark on remobilizing the country to rally behind Parliament and demand that it rejects the proposed Bill and ensure that the reforms enacted are comprehensive and take into account the proposals from all Ugandan stakeholders.
1) We will embark on holding a series of public rallies to rally citizens to demand for comprehensive electoral reforms, which our country deserves.
2) We invite all citizens to join the Free and Fair Elections Campaign Marathon scheduled to take place on May 24, 2015 here in Kampala and in selected major towns across the country as well announce in due course.
3) We call upon all peace loving Ugandans in their different formations: religious leaders, professional and business associations, civil society organizations and individual citizens to raise the issue of free and fair elections and the intransigence of Government manifest in its Bill to parliament and to mobilize citizens to reject this Bill and demand for comprehensive reforms to establish a credible electoral system.
4) We will align our efforts with all pro-democracy forces inside and outside parliament that are working to ensure that alternative comprehensive reform bills are presented and debated in Parliament.
In the pursuit of this campaign, we are conscious of the fact that since independence, Uganda has never had a free and fair election. Almost every election has been contested in some cases leading into protracted conflict, violence and consequently the suffering of our people.
It is therefore the constitutional duty and civic responsibility of every Ugandan to ensure that future elections must be held based on a credible electoral management system to guarantee its fairness all participating parties.
We call upon all Ugandans to be ready to challenge any outcome from the current process that falls short of comprehensive reforms that will result into the establishment of an independent electoral commission, a credible and verifiable voters’ register, a credible election results transmission system and other important reforms as contained in the Citizens Compact on Free and Fair Elections.
For God and My Country
Patricia Munabi Babiiha
For and on Behalf of the Coordinating Team
Free and Fair Elections Campaign.