As conveners of the three-day conference on political and electoral reforms prepared for the final closing ceremony, tensions were building among the delegates and, soon, disagreements emerged over some of the proposals and the next course of action.
With delegates converging for the final day, there was also some excitement when agents of former Vice President Prof Gilbert Bukenya (Busiro North) and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi (Kinkiizi West) informed the organisers that the two associates-turned-political-rivals of President Museveni would attend the final day’s proceedings.
The programme for the closing ceremony was also brought forward to accommodate speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, who wanted to preside over the closure well in time for Parliament’s plenary session. Like President Museveni who skipped the opening ceremony, the three NRM leaders too did not show up.
The reform proposals are summarised in a 16-point pact named, ‘Uganda citizens’ compact on free and fair elections,’ which was signed by political party leaders, religious bodies, civil society organisations and representatives of cultural institutions.
At the signing ceremony, Mugisha Muntu (FDC), Asuman Basalirwa (JEEMA), Michael Mabikke (SDP), John Ken Lukyamuzi (CP) and Emmanuel Tumusime (Forum for Integrity in Leadership) were the only party presidents present. John Baptist Kawanga (DP vice president) represented Nobert Mao while Beti Kamya (UFA), who has been critical of the process, skipped the signing ceremony.
Trade unionists protested the reforms over the proposal 14 (iv) that suggests the removal of workers from special interest group representation since their issues can be addressed by directly elected MPs.
“Politicians have hijacked this process because they are selfish. They want to push us out. We can’t approve of such a proposal and we [workers] are going to mobilise against all opposition MPs and ensure that they don’t return to the next Parliament,” said Wilson Owere, the chairman general of National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU).
Feeling sidelined, Stella Nambuya, president of the little-known Republican Youth and Women’s Party, attempted to forcefully sign the pact but was restrained by the organisers.
“This pact has been hijacked,” she shouted. “It is not in the interest of Ugandans but promoters of foreign interests.”
Nambuya accused the organisers of having “side-stepped” the smaller parties and said that for the recommendations to be meaningful, they should be channelled through the national consultative forum. To the organisers, Nambuya and Ainebyoona ‘Vicks Kingo,’ who wanted to sign on behalf of NRM, were simply saboteurs to the process.
Even as they signed the final pact, former FDC President Dr Kizza Besigye and Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago warned that the proposals may end up being trashed the same way similar proposals were ignored in 2009.
“I was the shadow attorney general at the time when we handed our proposals to the speaker of Parliament. The only difference is that this time around, we are not only political parties but the civil society, religious and cultural leaders,” Lukwago said.
Lukwago added that unless opposition groups adopted more proactive practices, the agitation for electoral reforms risked turning into “a sort of ritual.”
“I think we need to move away from this ritual and adopt means that will keep up the pressure to have the reforms accepted,” Lukwago said.
Reciting from the Book of Isaiah 35, former Ethics and Integrity minister, Miria Matembe, asked the reformists to abandon fear.
“Let each one of us resolve to abandon fear, fear is the biggest weapon that our enemy uses to fight us. The opposite of fear is faith, have faith because with God, we shall overcome,” Matembe said.
Forum for Integrity in Leadership (FIL) President Emmanuel Tumusime threw organisers into panic when he took a microphone and announced that the convention should not end without announcing a transitional government.
“We must not leave this place without doing something,” Tumusiime began, attracting the attention of the delegates.
“If you are not willing to do it, I will do it myself. I want to propose that this meeting forms a transitional government because we need to show people that we are serious,” he added.
After Tumusiime made his pronouncement, the executive director of the Uganda National NGO Forum, Richard Ssewakiryanga, one of the conference convenors, stopped the opposition politician in his tracks, in an apparent move to prevent the convening civil society organisations from running into trouble with the government.
Source : The Observer