The dialogue is to help generate consensus on the necessary electoral and constitutional reforms ahead of the 2016 polls.
By Moses Mulondo & Nicholas Wassajja
The civil society, religious leaders, political parties and the labour movement are set to convene a national dialogue to generate consensus on the necessary electoral and constitutional reforms to guarantee free and fair elections in 2016.
This historic event, whose organizers have likened to the Lancaster conference which generated consensus for the 1962 independence constitution, was announced by Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda in Kampala.
“The consultation is extremely important for this country because it reflects a more all-inclusive Uganda than our various affiliations. We shall agree on the necessary reforms and I don’t expect anyone to object to the proposals of Ugandans because power belongs to people. Evil cannot defeat good,” Batanyenda explained.
He said whereas on many occasions constitutional amendments and other key national decisions have been made without involving the citizens, the national dialogue, which has been preceded with regional consultations, is meant to involve all the citizens in the democratic governance of their country.
Flanked by Lina Zedriga and Crispy Kaheru, Batanyenda indicated that in the various regional consultations they have conducted across the country, Ugandans overwhelmingly supported the move to amend the constitution for a credible electoral process which can guarantee free and fair elections.
“The goal of the National consultation is to provide ourselves an opportunity for us to deliberate on a wide range of constitutional and electoral reforms needed to strengthen our Nation’s electoral system, rule of law and constitutionalism in our country,” they said in their press statement which was read by Kaheru.
Kaheru reported that some of the common reforms agreed upon by regional participants have requested for include the need an independent electoral commission agreed upon by all stakeholders, removal of the military from the electoral process, restoring presidential term limits, and preventing usage of public resources in campaigns.
Others include the need to redistribute power among state agencies, building a strong system of checks, balances and accountability, transparent and credible voters’ register, and term limits for affirmative action positions like women MPs.
The three-day national dialogue which will November 24 to 26th November at Hotel Africana, will be convened by respected eminent citizens who include Prof. Edward Rugumayo, Prince Kassim Nakibinge, Rhoda Kalema, Archbishop John Baptist Odama, Sheik Obed Kamulegeya, Bishop Wilson Turumanya, Francis Akello, and Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda.
The head of the technical secretariat organizing the event Godber Tumushabe revealed that they have invited President Yoweri Museveni to open the dialogue and the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to close it.
“We realized that the office of the President and the Speaker are important offices which have to be involved in building national consensus on the necessary constitutional amendments,” Tumushabe explained.
Asked to mention the funders of the event, Tumushabe said they include citizens, NGOs, parties and development partners who include Democratic Governance Facility, International Democratic Institute, and International Republican Institute.
Lina Zedriga from Forum for Women in Democracy said the national consultation will be an opportunity to enforce the constitutional provision which says power belongs to people.
Former FDC party chief administrator Wycliffe Bakandonda said, “Anybody that fails to participate in the national dialogue of this nature ultimately fails out. This platform is a leveled ground for building national consensus for a credible democratic dispensation.”
In a letter which was read by the Speaker of Parliament on Tuesday, the minister for constitutional affairs Gen. Kahinda Otafiire informed the House that the executive is in the final stages of drafting the constitutional amendments and asked the various stakeholders who have any proposals they want to be included to take them to the Law Reform Commission before November 21, 2014.
But on the request of the Leader of Opposition Wafula Oguttu, Otafiire accepted to extend the deadline to accommodate the resolutions for reforms which will be generated in the national dialogue on free and fair elections.
NGOs, parties to dialogue on electoral reforms