The EC is awaiting for President Museveni to assent to the amendments in the Local Government Amendments Bill 2012.
By John Semakula & John Masaba
The key to holding village council elections is in President Yoweri Museveni’s hands.
The Electoral Commission (EC) says it will conduct the elections after President Museveni has assented to the amendments in the Local Government Amendments Bill 2012.
The vice-chairperson of the Parliament’s public service and local Government committee, Raphael Magyezi, said the amendments were endorsed in February and forwarded to the President.
Museveni studying Bill
President Museveni is still studying the Bill to ensure the amendments have put into consideration the values of his revolutionary Government, his press secretary, Tamale Mirundi, said.
“The President’s task after receiving the Bill, is not just to sign it, but to read it thoroughly, before appending his signature. Some MPs ignore issues affecting peasants, yet the President wants them addressed. That is why he will take his time,” Mirundi said.
He added that the President would sign the Bill at the appropriate time.
EC spokesperson Jotham Taremwa told Saturday Vision that they would conduct village elections once the law was in place.
EC made several amendments to the Local Government Elections Act. These include sending a text voters’ register to political parties, instead of the photo and text register, as it is in the existing law.
The other amendment allows the EC to set up tribunals of five members at parish level to address electoral concerns instead of involving every voter at the village
Taremwa said the existing law had made conducting the village elections costly.
“Amendments to the Bill were critical to the reduction in the budget,” he said.
Last year, EC boss Eng. Badru Kiggundu told Saturday Vision that he had received sh19b for village elections.
If the new law is passed, EC will require sh93.6b from the Central Government to organise the elections.
Sources say the amount would have been higher or even doubled if the amendments had not been made.
EC says sh93.6b includes funds for organising women and youth council elections.
According to Taremwa, the sh93.6b is part of the sh1.2 trillion the electoral body had budgeted for the 2016 general elections.
The commission unveiled the 2016 general election roadmap this month.
Taremwa said the EC will soon request for funds from Parliament.
“The Ministry of Finance issued a certificate of financial implications before the Bill was tabled in Parliament. The certificate is proof that the Government has the resources to organise the elections,” he said.
Taremwa said if village elections are not held by 2016, they will be conducted after the parliamentary and presidential elections.
Existing councils illegal
But postponing village elections will mean villages will continue to be ran by the existing skeleton LC committees, whose legality is being challenged.
Today, there is a high crime rate in communities, which has been blamed on the absence of active village councils.
Legal experts also warn that documents and transactions being signed by the LCs are not legally binding.
Officials at the Ministry of Local Government seem unaware about whether village councils are operating legally.
When contacted, local government state minister Alex Onzima referred Saturday Vision to the commission.
Lawyer Krispus Ayena Odong, a member of the legal and parliamentary affairs committee, said documents bearing signatures or stamps of LCs can be challenged in court because they have ‘no evidential value or legal consequence’.
“You are better off going to a local administration, for example, a sub-county chief,” he said
Yusuf Nsibambi, another legal expert in Kampala, said village councils had no mandate because the Constitutional Court ruled that they were null and void.
The lower councils have got a five-year mandate.
However, since Uganda adopted a multiparty system of governance in 2005, their mandate has never been renewed.
But some villages have been conducting by-elections to replace their leaders who have either died or moved to other areas. Taremwa said it is only EC that has the powers to organise elections.
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