Presidential aspirant and former Security minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde has called for a postponement of the 2021 general election.
Speaking to journalists at his home in Kololo, Tumukunde said it’s impractical to have ‘meaningful’ elections in the country where people cannot choose their leaders in a free and fair manner, going by the revised electoral roadmap of the Electoral Commission.
Last week, EC chairperson justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama said they were pushing ahead with the elections amidst the coronavirus pandemic scare in order to comply with the dictates of the Constitution.
Under Article 61(2) of the Constitution, the Electoral Commission is mandated to organize an election in the first 30 days of the last 122 days to the expiry of the term of office of the president, parliament or local government.However, Byabakama said despite pushing ahead with the elections, it doesn’t mean that they are oblivious of the danger posed by the coronavirus. To reduce on the risk, he said, they were banning all open-air campaigns in favour of digital campaigning where candidates use the digital and electronic media.
But to Tumukunde, this is a nonstarter especially when one considers the ownership of media in Uganda.
“Most of these radios are owned by politicians. I can use Jinja as an example – one is owned by honourable [Moses] Balyeku, another one is owned by honourable [Nathan Igeme] Nabeta. Now, assuming critical times come and they say; don’t allow an opposed man to NRM to speak on your radio. What more powers do you have over Balyeku’s radio. Who are you? Let us get down and look at this nitty-gritty. You have like 10,000 candidates, how are you going to split them and how are you going to make sure that each of them is truly accessing these media? That is to start with if you can because this a private ownership. This is my shirt, you cant come and tell me wear it upside down. I will say no, its mine that is how I want to wear it.” said Tumukunde.
He called on the Electoral Commission to continue engaging all stakeholders in order to agree on a compromise position. He said elections in the past have caused a war in Uganda which resulted into the NRM taking over power in 1986, therefore, they shouldn’t be played with.
However, speaking Tuesday to political party leaders under their umbrella organization National Consultative Forum, Byabakama said they have no powers to amend the law to extend the election or declare a state of emergency which would enable the extension of the election.
“Extending an election is a work of another agency [parliament]; if it tells us to stop, we will stop,” said Byabakama.Asked what he would do if the Electoral Commission refuses to adhere to his proposals, Tumukunde said he’s consulting with other opposition political players to come up with a common ground. He added that if they are unsuccessful in stopping the EC from organizing next year’s elections and there is no united front against it, then he will have no doubt but to be part of it.
“We shall do everything possible to stop a negative election or a wrongly done election from taking place and once we discuss and agree on a position, I will be with them. I don’t have to be escorting them but I’m dependable and you can count on me. If their position doesn’t favour my deep thinking on the matter, I will choose the course of the group that I’m leading,” said Tumukunde.
Tumukunde further said the EC is wrong to print ballots for the 2021 general elections within Uganda. He said printing ballots in Uganda has potential for leakage and duplication which will compromise the integrity of the 2021 elections.”I heard the chairman of the Electoral Commission this time becoming very Ugandan, saying BUBU that is; buy Uganda build Uganda. Therefore they are going to print things here. Am sure you know what happens at Nkurumah [street]. You know how many things are printed in Nkurumah that is why the EC was saying those of you who don’t have documents from original know universities, please take them for certification. You know why? Anybody can print,” he said.
Tumukunde added that the prevailing conditions in the country so far don’t allow for free and fair elections as provided for in the constitution.
“Let the Electoral Commission find importance in the legitimacy and credibility of an election. Once this ceases to be, then you give legitimacy to many other things,” Tumukunde said.
Speaking earlier, Byabakama said they are in the process of identifying companies that will supply the 2021 election materials. He added that printing ballots in Uganda are not a new phenomenon.
“All ballots for by-elections are printed here, the only difference for general elections is the bulk of the printing and the variables; they are so many, we are talking about 1.5 million elective positions for the 2021 general election. So if we have a local company with the capacity to print those and take into account the variables we have no problem with that,” Byabakama said.He called on Ugandans to start believing in the capacity of their local people.
“Look at how we have fought COVID; how much foreign input do we have? I think Ugandans should start developing a culture of self-belief in our abilities and commitment,” Byabakama said.For all the previous general elections, ballot papers have been printed from outside the country especially in South Africa.