Uganda has responded with derision to criticism by the European Union that reforms it presented to Parliament were cosmetic and do not address substantive issues needed for free and fair elections.
A government spokesperson said on Monday that the country’s electoral laws have been improved over time and can deliver a credible election despite misgivings by EU envoys, opposition politicians and the civil society.
“Uganda is not their colony anymore and therefore, we do not hold elections for their satisfaction,” Mr Ofwono Opondo, the government Media Centre director, said in an interview Monday.
A delegation of EU ambassadors held a closed-door meeting with the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, last Friday during which they questioned the credibility of the 2016 General Election.
This, according to the envoys, was because government has ignored demands for meaningful reforms of electoral laws, including establishment of an independent electoral commission.
However, Mr Opondo said electoral laws and electoral management have progressively improved.
“We have no doubt that the ongoing processes will give a credible process, including election results,” he added.
Mr Opondo said the proposals contained in the Constitutional Amendment Bill were not cast in stone.
“They are disappointed that their allies in the opposition are complaining. Government put proposals before Parliament, which can be amended, deleted or added,” Mr Opondo said.
On Monday, the EU Delegation to Uganda clarified that while it remains concerned that the proposals do not address substantive issues, “the EU has not passed a verdict on the credibility of the 2016 General Election.”
“As you are aware, at the conclusion of the 2011 General Election, the EU Electoral Observation Mission fell short of describing that election as free and fair. The observers cited electoral reform as one of the key recommendations needed for address. It is, therefore, a missed opportunity that the last four years have not addressed some of these recommendations,” Mr Emmanuel Gyezaho, the EU press and information officer, said.
The electoral agency also on Monday downplayed the demand for reforms and the stance by the opposition and civil society for an independent commission.
The agency said there are enough safeguards in the existing laws, including the proposed use of biometric data captured during the registration for the national identity cards to fire-proof the polls from any rigging.
“We are going to have free and fair elections. An election is about a registration that is publicly verifiable. When carrying out the registration, we captured bio-data, fingerprints, pictures and digital signatures. There were no multiple registrations and, therefore, there will not be multiple voting,” the Electoral Commission's spokesperson Jotham Taremwa stated.
He said electoral reform debate had been over politicised. “The President appoints the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). What difference does it make for the JSC to select members of the Electoral Commission? That argument falls short of any analysis. It’s been politicised, it is more political than legal.”
In response, Mr Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East MP), also shadow minister for constitutional affairs, said the commission was an interested party to comment on its composition and reforms.
“The Electoral Commission is in the dock and therefore not sober enough to speak about reforms. The manner in which they are appointed makes them biased. The process of appointing the JSC is different. The members of the commission are not screened professionally. If Electoral Commission thinks that by the JSC screening and recommending their appointment, similar results will be produced, then why speak against it,” he said. -Daily Monitor