Big Interview: "It's a shame. EC should apologise for what happened in Kayunga"

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Sarah Bireete is a human rights defender and has been very vocal on the issues regarding human rights violations, governance issues among others while also running the Centre for Constitutional Governance (CCG), a civil society watchdog as its executive director.

She spoke to The Nile Post regarding the just concluded Kayunga by-election among other issues

Excerpts below:

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How has the Centre for Constitutional Governance created avenues for Ugandans to participate in the governance of their country?

We are a constitutional watchdog. We promote constitutionalism in Uganda through people’s participation, creating avenues for the citizens to participate in the governance but also through ensuring that constitutional rights and obligations are fulfilled and observed by state actors as mandated by the constitution.

We have programmes running in universities to create venues for the students to engage in governance and national issues .We also do this on our digital network. We also have programmes working and pushing back on shrinking or closing civic space in Uganda where we act with other civil society organisations .

What is your assessment of the just concluded Kayunga LCV by-election?

I don’t know whether that exercise qualifies to be called an election because it violated all principles of a free and fair election. In my view it doesn’t refer to be called an election and my call is really to the Election Commission. If they are not ready to discharge the mandate bestowed upon them by the Constitution, they can stand down.

What are some of these principles that were violated?

Just let’s consider the two days of the election, the eve and voting day. On the eve all main actors on the side of the National Unity Platform (NUP) were arrested. Some were picked from the hotel on the excuse of violating curfew. If somebody is collected from their place of residence, what curfew did they violate?

There was an intention to arrest all key actors on the opposition side using police and the army and the other one was stopping  theNUP principal from attending the final rally of his candidate.

What was the reason for sealing off Bobi Wine’s house on the final day of rallies? That is another injustice .Of course the Election Commission never said anything and one has a reason to doubt whether they were in charge of that election or not .

What should a free and fair elections look like?

What I have described did not exist. Uniform application of laws which didn’t exist, freedom of voters... there was no freedom of association and assembly.

The votes were not cast in a transparent manner. This was not an election and Ugandans saw what happened. The Electoral Commission should be ashamed and they should apologise to Ugandans because they are failing to discharge their mandate. They should resign.

Museveni recently warned the Inspector General of Government (IGG) to go slow on corrupt officials because she would scare them hence investing their loot abroad .What do you make of such remarks?

The former IGG, Justice Irene Mulyagonja, is on record to have said that whenever she chases thieves they end up at State House. That was a statement from a justice of the Court of Uganda, so you should not be taken casually.

When Beti Kamya came in, she wanted to carry a lifestyle audit but Museveni’s regime cannot exist without corruption. First of all NRM is a corrupt institution and all they are doing ,they are surviving on corruption, manipulation of the citizens and fraud like what we just saw in Kayunga .

So if anybody really expects this regime to fight corruption, they should wake up from their dream land. If he fights corruption he will get himself out of power and he said that clearly.

In your view, what could be the best way to eliminate corruption in Uganda?

The government should get itself out of power and stop corrupting themselves and manipulating the will of the people. That is what they need to do as government but for the citizens, they should not give up on their country. NRM is like any other regime, it will end. So the citizens should keep fighting corruption but NRM cannot fight corruption.

Activists have been asking the government to lift the ban on 54 NGOs that were suspended in August this year .Do you think there was high handedness in dealing with these NGOs?

The reasons are obvious. They [government] don’t want to be called to account on corruption, human rights violations, manipulation of citizen’s mandate and failure to deliver services to the people. It is important to note that most affected NGOs were those working on governance.

So, the reasons are clear. All these have since complied but the NGO Bureau has refused to reopen them. So that exposes their agenda that their purpose was not just about compliance because even after complying, the bureau has refused to lift the suspension.

Medics have spent almost a month asking for an increment of their allowances. In your view how best should the government handle this issue?

We need a salary and remuneration commission and this should set salaries for all people that earn from tax payers money while serving the government including MPs. I know it is a tall order because of the inequities in salaries because other than MPs, you have the Bank of Uganda governor earning much more money than a chief justice in this country.

In other democratic countries, the chief justice, speaker of Parliament earn the same money and then the central bank governor comes next to the chief justice and speaker but do you know how much money the bank of Uganda governor earns?

If you include his package and allowances, it is obscene money. We have a range of inequalities in our remuneration as people who serve this country and it is wrong. We need a balance.

 

 

 

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