"Suspending our activities will hurt democracy in this country and that is why we are opting for dialogue to resolve these issues amicably."
CCEDU chairperson Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana addresses a meeting at the CCEDU main offices in Kampala on Thursday. (Credit: Nancy Nanyonga)
KAMPALA - Members of Citizens' Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) want to meet the Electoral Commission to amicably settle issues raised in a letter issued by the latter recently.
CCEDU, the largest network of domestic election observers, believe that dialogue is the sure way to revive the working relationship they have had with the EC in voter education and election observation.
The Electoral Commission, headed by Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama, suspended the activities of CCEDU, accusing the body of being partisan.
"Many times, CCEDU has acted outside the election observation guidelines as set by the EC," the letter issued by the Electoral Commission early this month reads.
"This undermines objectivity and commitment in adhering to laid down standards of engagement as far as election-related activities are concerned."
CCEDU, which consists of 991 civil society organisations with as many as 27,801 individual members spread out across the country, held a meeting at their main office in Nsambya, Kampala.
Suspension will 'hurt democracy'
Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana, the coalition chairperson, said they are not partisan, but are only doing their mandate of observing elections.
"They [Electoral Commission] want us to just observe, document and share findings without identifying the shortcomings and charting a way forward as our mandate requires - something I find a bit weird," he said.
"We were also shocked that EC leaked the letter to social media before engaging us.
"Suspending our activities will hurt democracy in this country and that is why we are opting for dialogue to resolve these issues amicably," Ssewanyana, who is also the executive director of Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, added.
Other resolutions adopted by the members include petitioning the Electoral Commission, Parliament and court to reverse the decision by the Electoral Commission.
Jinja East Municipality MP Paul Mwiru has offered to present the petition on their behalf.
Ken Lukyamuzi, the leader of the Conservative Party, said suspending the activities of CCEDU is illegal and unconstitutional because the citizens are denied their constitutional right of civic education.
Sarah Bireete, director of programmes of Centre for Constitutional Governance, wondered how Justice Byamukama could suspend the coalition without applying the rules of natural justice.
"As a justice of the High Court, Byamukama knows rules of natural justice must be applied. People in disagreement have a right to a fair hearing," she said.
"Suspending CCEDU without engaging them was wrong and they deserve fair hearing through dialogue."
New Vision sought a comment from the Electoral Commission through its spokesperson Jothan Taremwa over potential dialogue with CCEDU. However, the attempts - through a phone call - were not successful.