No reforms, no polls – opposition

Arranging elections before the current Electoral Commission is supplanted with a truly independent body, is similar to having a player refereeing a game in which he is playing, Opposition politicians said yesterday.

In their new campaign, “Stop the Player-Referee”, the Citizens Reforms Now pressure group led by fomer FDC president Dr Kizza Besigye, Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, and Jeema president Asuman Basalirwa called on Ugandans to stand up in defense of the Constitution to ensure a genuinely free and fair election.

“We call upon all peace loving Ugandans not to allow, once again, a player and team captain to likewise be the referee as Mr. Museveni is,” the Lord Mayor said, adding: “A line has been drawn in the sand, this must stop.”

Yesterday’s appeal goes ahead to the backdrop of a progressing countrywide push by the Opposition to find support for their bid to ensure electoral reforms are set up before next year elections.
The countrywide campaigns already resulted in a “Nationals” Compact’ that proposes, in addition to other things, establishment of an independent and impartial Electoral Commission not appointed by the President.

The Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo yesterday said if the Opposition finds it unfair to partake in an election organized by a President Museveni-appointed EC, “they ought to go and amend the Constitution to strip the President of executive powers during elections, including presiding over the economy and making appointments.”

“That power is not unique to Uganda, both the Prime Minister and President retains their executive powers all through elections. Our Constitution is 20 years of age and they have never brought such a proposition, have they just realized this?” he said.

At yesterday’s briefing, CIREN also blamed the commission for “illegally” creating new electoral boundaries.

“This is being done by making new counties and districts in the typical gerrymandering way that prompted Mr. Museveni to go to the bramble (in 1980),” Mr. Lukwago said.

Nonetheless, the EC spokesperson, Mr. Jotham Taremwa, denied this. “We have not made any constituencies,” he said. “What I know is that the Ministry of Local Government has proposed to have more counties. If Parliament approves them, then, we will adopt them.”

In the mean time, business halted when Dr Besigye went to Container Village, downtown Kampala, and a hug crowd gathered around him. Police ordered the politician to take another route but he objected.

They then blocked his vehicle forcing him to forsake his vehicle in the middle of the road. Police fired teargas to scatter people who had gathered, cheering Dr Besigye, who was captured and by press time he was recording a statement at Jinja Road Police Station. Police spokesperson Polly Namaye said the politician was trying to address a crowd without informing police.