Catholic Bishops under their umbrella body, the Uganda Episcopal Conference have asked government to consider putting into force electoral reforms ahead of the 2021 general elections.
In their Christmas message, the Catholic Bishops in a joint statement read by Rt.Rev. Joseph Anthony Zziwa said there is a lot of anxiety hovering around the forthcoming polls but asked government to ensure electoral reforms are put in place.
“As we enter the electioneering period, many Ugandans are afraid that there will be more violence and suppression of dissenting views thus running prospects and hopes for peaceful, free and fair elections. We note with concern the slow space at which reform of electoral laws is moving and the despondency and restless this is causing among a significant portion of the electorate,” the Rev.Zziwa said.
“It is important that government listens to these calls for reforms since existence of free and fair elections is the cornerstone for civilized competition for power.”
In July, the Attorney General, William Byaruhanga tabled five Bills in which government proposed several reforms ahead of the 2021 General Election.
The reforms were comprised in the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill No.17, 2019, the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill No.18, 2019, the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill No. 19, 2019, the Political Parties and Organization (Amendment) Bill No. 20, 2019 and the Local Governments (Amendment) Bill No.21, 2019.
In the reforms, government sought to see that a person elected to Parliament as an Independent candidate may form an alliance with a registered political party or organisation, but the “forming of an alliance shall not be construed as joining that political party or organisation.”
Government also seeks to see all independent candidates, including for presidential and parliamentary elections to have ceased to be members of a political party a year to the nominations.
The reforms, however, attracted a backlash from the members of the public as many accused government of targeting Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine.
The Attorney General dismissed the same as baseless rumours.
“That provision is not there and if it is anywhere, let someone show it to me. The reforms are not here to target Bobi Wine and if in any case, he should be buying me a beer,” Byaruhanga said.
However, the opposition also tabled a number of reforms that they wanted to be implemented.
Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba who had earlier been granted leave to secure a certificate of implication from the Finance Ministry also unveiled plans to table a Private member’s Bill in which the Opposition seeks several amendments to the Constitution to alter the state structure.
The opposition’s Bill wants to repeal the office of the Prime Minister and Vice President, with the two roles being carried out by a deputy president.
The Bill also proposes the reduction of the size of government to 21 Cabinet ministers and 21 State ministers who will not be appointed from elected MPs.
The Private Member’s Bill also provides for the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General as ex-officios in Parliament, serving a five-year renewable tenure of office.
The opposition’s Bill also seeks to restore presidential term limits and abolish the army representatives in Parliament and involvement of the Judicial Service Commission in the appointment of the Electoral Commission chairperson among others.