Uganda's Electoral Law and Institutional Framework: Perspectives for the 2011 Elections
Grand Public Debate organised by Makerere University Convocation
August 25 Tuesday
August 25, 2009
Imperial Royale Hotel
Hon. Justice Joseph Mulenga, Former Judge of the Supreme Court, has urged political parties to enter into a constructive dialogue on necessary electoral reforms. "Can't we at least reach consensus on the system we use?", he asked participants at a grand public debate at Imperial Royale Hotel, adding that "right now it is only on paper". The public debate was organised by Makerere University Convocation with support from Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS).
The grand debate, which was officially opened by Mr. Peter Girke, KAS Country Representative in Uganda, brought together three outstanding panelists who discussed the existing electoral laws and the institutional framework for free and fair elections with regard to the upcoming elections in 2011. After the presentation by Hon. Justice Mulenga, Hon. Wandera Ogala, member of the East African Legislative Assembly, outlined some of the major justifications for a reform of the electoral law and emphasised some specific areas of concern. He stated for example that the appointment of the Electoral Commission by the President was a result of the movement system which under the current multi-party system should be changed so that all parties could be involved in the composition of the Electoral Commission. Furthermore he criticised the representation of the army in parliament and the involvement of security forces in the electoral process and emphasised the need of a waterproof voters register.
The third speaker was Hon. Biraahwa Mukitala Stephen Adyeeri, Member of Parliament for Bulisa, who elaborated on the topic from the perspective of the legislature. He urged the opposition parties to put priority on the establishment of structures at grassroots level as well as internal democracy instead of going ahead and asking for electoral reforms. According to him, opposition parties should accept the competition under the multi-party system in which "you either win or you lose".
The presentations were followed by a lively open discussion with numerous contributions coming from the audience. During the hot debate, the historical perspective appeared to be of special relevance. The panelists agreed that it was actually rigged elections in 1980 that led to the Bush War. According to Hon. Ogalo the experience of violent regime changes and war because of election dispute should be reason enough to pay attention to the details of electoral regulations and introduce reforms where necessary in order to avoid such scenarios in the future.