Debate on age limits and term length for the president of Uganda came to a sudden halt Tuesday when a lawmaker reported seeing soldiers on the premises. The allegation led to a scuffle between legislators and parliamentary police. The legislature was already on edge because of the proposals being discussed. Parliament is debating a bill that would abolish the age limit for 75 presidential candidates, a move that would enable longtime President Yoweri Museveni to run for another term in the 2021 election. Opposition lawmakers and some members of the ruling party object to the bill, and debate that began Monday has been tumultuous. On Monday, shouting and chair-throwing forced Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to suspend six members of parliament.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Uganda.
In his inaugural speech, after being sworn in as the new Electoral Commission chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama made a passionate plea to Ugandans especially critics to give him time to deliver on his mandate. In making the plea, Justice Byabakama was well aware of the documented lack of confidence in the electoral body and did not shy away from taking note of this, before stating his credentials of being “independent”. “I am coming from a background were being independent is a prerequisite of exercise of the judicial power. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not about to throw off that gown and leave it in court,” he said. Unfortunately for him, Justice Byabakama has in the past been found to have thrown off that “gown” particularly during his time at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Seven out of 10 Members of Parliament are opposed to the lifting of the Presidential age limit from the Constitution, according to a new study. This is entailed in a new survey released by the Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy on Uganda (CCEDU) on Parliamentary Attitudes to lifting Presidential age limit conducted between September 16 and October 7, where 185 were interviewed. The MPs in the report also supported the restructuring of the Independent Electoral Commission (EC), arguing that this will guarantee the public free and fair elections in future.
Uganda’s Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to the presidential election held in February, issuing a ruling on Thursday that secured President Yoweri Museveni a mandate for another five-year term. He has been in office since 1986. The vote last month, seen as a pivotal moment in Uganda’s democracy as the last time Mr. Museveni will be legally allowed to appear on a presidential ballot, was marred with irregularities and widespread criticism. The legal challenge by the third-place finisher, Amama Mbabazi, argued that Mr. Museveni was not validly elected and that Uganda’s electoral commission had disseminated false results, among other allegations. It requested a recount in more than 40 districts.
Ugandan opposition parties are faced with a familiar conundrum—fairly sure that the election they just lost was rigged, but unsure how to prove it. There is evidence that President Yoweri Museveni’s main challenger, Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), made significant gains in many parts of the country, especially urban areas. It is also clear that intimidation and repression were widespread, including the repeated detention of Besigye in the weeks of and after polling day. But neither domestic courts nor international election monitors are likely to declare an election unfree or unfair on the basis of this kind of background manipulation, although both the European Union and U.S. State Department found the election process to be marked by a lack of transparency and worrying irregularities. At the end of the day, it is only hard evidence of ballot box stuffing or faulty vote tallying that is likely to sway them. So, do the results, published by the Electoral Commission (EC) in almost complete form towards the end of February, point to a rigged election? And if so, how was it done?
In closing arguments yesterday in the Supreme court, lawyers for Amama Mbabazi, the main challenger to President Museveni’s re-election victory, worked harder than ever to prove the charges of voter bribery, intimidation and disenfranchisement of voters against the president. But without supporting evidence, the lawyers came for tough questioning from Chief Justice Katureebe. They also couldn’t prove that discarding the old voters’ register by the Electoral Commission affected the outcome of the presidential and parliamentary elections. The Mbabazi lawyers however, did a good job poking holes into the Electoral Commission’s handling of polling on election day and the final declaration of results. In his robust presentation, Mbabazi’s lead counsel, Mohmed Mbabazi, told court that President Museveni’s victory should be nullified because the Electoral Commission did not rely on hard copies of the declaration of results forms and tally sheets from districts when declaring the winner.
Chief Justice Bart Katureebe must have felt a sense that he had been here before as he led eight justices of the Supreme Court in Kampala on March 7 to the pre-hearing conference of a petition against the Feb. 18 presidential election. In the petition,one of the losers; former presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi is seeking nullification of the incumbent, President Yoweri Museveni’s election on 43 grounds which include non-compliance with the law, vote stealing, and intimidation of voters and agents by security forces. Justice Katureebe is the only one of the nine justices hearing the petition to have been in a similar position before. In 2006, he was on a panel that heard another petition brought before the Supreme Court against the election of the same respondents, including President Yoweri Museveni, the Attorney General, and the Electoral Commission.
In the Supreme court yesterday, the nine justices rejected a request for a presidential vote recount by lawyers representing Amama Mbabazi in the petition challenging the results of the February 18 presidential election. The request, which can still be entertained in the course of the main hearing, sought to compel the Electoral Commission to recount votes in 45 districts, before the petition is heard. “The law doesn’t give vote recount as a preliminary relief…” said Bart Katureebe, the chief justice and head of the nine-panel judge.
Suspected burglars broke into the offices of two of Amama Mbabazi’s lawyers on Tuesday night and reportedly made off with computers and case files. Though the lawyers did not report the cases to the Uganda Police Force, the police have now gone to the offices of the two lawyers, Fred Muwema and Muhammed Mbabazi, to carry out investigations. “I think the police should come to tell us that they [the police allegedly] broke in because they were here,” said counsel Mbabazi during a televised interview. He ruled out going to the police to report the incident. “The police were seen to have come here. They came, they [allegedly] broke [in and] they took away whatever they took. So I report to whom? They should be the ones to come and tell me ‘we came in, we didn’t find you then we broke in’.”