Friday, August 14, 2015

Uganda: Opposition coalition quit talks with governing over reforms ahead of polls

Opposition political parties under The Democratic Alliance (TDA) yesterday announced their immediate withdrawal from all forums of dialogue with the ruling National Resistance Movement as a sign of discontentment with the passing of the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2015, without the major reforms they had proposed.

Flanked by leaders of the different parties that make up the alliance, Prof Frederick Ssempebwa, the TDA chair, recounted different engagements to have reforms, which he said had been ignored by the government prompting them to make the move.
“All political parties under the alliance will commence a process of withdrawing from the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) and from the National Consultative Forum (NCF) with immediate effect.”

The formulation of the NCF laid down in the 1995 Constitution and operationalised under Section 20(4) of the Political Parties and Organizations Act No.18 of 2005 only came to effect in 2011.

The Forum is currently comprised of more than 35 member political parties and organisations with a Secretariat at the Electoral Commission. The EC secretary also acts as secretary of the Forum. It is currently chaired by NRM and deputised by the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

On the other hand, IPOD comprises all the registered political parties with at least one seat in Parliament.
These include the Conservative Party (CP), the Democratic Party (DP), FDC, Justice Forum, (JEEMA), Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC), and NRM.

By ignoring what he said are people’s views, Prof Ssempebwa, who in the past chaired the Constitutional Review Commission, said the executive and Parliament had left the Opposition with no choice.

“The actions of this government led by President Museveni and the decision of the 9th Parliament are clearly at variance with the will of the people of Uganda. We feel that they have absconded from their representative duty and overthrown the power of the people as enshrined under our Constitution. It is increasingly clear that comprehensive reforms can only be undertaken under a new government.”

He added that donor and tax- payers’ money to the tune of Shs 5b spent on 1POD and Shs 1b on the National Consultation on Free and Fair Elections exercise, which developed the Citizen’s Compact, had gone to waste.

The law don observed that government no longer listens to citizens and so, it was incumbent upon Ugandans to do everything constitutionally possible to cause regime change so that meaningful constitutional reforms can be undertaken.

“The TDA pre-occupation will be to accelerate our efforts to bring about the end of this regime in order to bring about a transitional government of national unity. To achieve this objective, all options to bring this regime to an end sooner than later remain our focus.”

Deputy government spokesperson Shaban Bantariza said the opposition was free to do whatever they want as long as it was within the confines of the law. “What we are witnessing is political freedom. They have the freedom to leave IPOD. They can do whatever they think will give them political mileage, the population will be the final arbiter,” he said.

Following protracted negations, NRM and the Opposition political parties under the IPOD arrangement, on February 5, agreed on 43 out of a total of 48 reforms discussed. The remaining four, including the reinstatement of presidential term limits, were deferred for further discussion. But when government tabled reforms, it also ignored those that it had agreed on with the Opposition.

Citizen’s Compact reforms

•President’s tenure should be restored to two five-year terms.
•Size of Parliament should be reduced in line with modest resources of the State.
•New independent and impartial electoral commission must be established.
•New verifiable register of all voters, which should include eligible Ugandans in the diaspora, must be compiled.
•Voting for LC3, LC5, Parliament and President should be conducted on one day.


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