Museveni agrees to attend next presidential debate

President Yoweri Museveni will attend this weekend's debate after skipping and mocking the first one

President Yoweri Museveni will attend this weekend’s debate after skipping and mocking the first one

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has agreed to attend the second debate of the Uganda presidential candidates that has been scheduled for 13th February, 2016.

During his presidential campaign in Kasangati, a Kampala suburb and home to his arch-rival Col (rtd) Kizza Besigye on Monday, President Museveni said that he is ready to come face to face with his opponents in the 18th February Presidential Polls, despite dismissing last month’s first debate as a “school children.”

President Museveni will face off with other presidential Candidates in the race including Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change, former Premier John Patrick Amama Mbabazi of Go Forward, Dr Abed Bwanika of People’s Development Party, Independents Professor Venacious Baryamureeba, Benon Biraro, Joseph Mabirizi and the only woman in the race Maureen Kyalya.

The second debate which comes five days to the highly contested polls is focusing on trade and investment, foreign policy, regional integration, currency and foreign reserves, population and demographic issues.

“The Elders’ Forum of Uganda, the Inter Religious Council of Uganda, the National Consultative Forum, together with the leadership of the Presidential debate planning committee, in consultation with candidates’ representatives, have set 13th February, 2016, as the date for the second presidential debate,” said a statement released by the Inter Religious Council of Uganda.

According to the Secretary General of the Inter Religious Council of Uganda, Joshua Kitakule, judging from public opinion, the first debate beat expectations. He stressed the forthcoming debate, second of its kind will focus on peace building among other issues.

“We have earnestly embarked on preparations for the next debate scheduled for Saturday 13th February, 2016. It will specifically focus on peace and security, regional integration, international trade and investment; and foreign policy,” Kitakule said.

On January 15, 2015, seven out of eight presidential candidates rolled out their plans for the country before the entire nation, in a live televised debate which was also aired live on radio stations around the country.
Kitakule added that the main goal of the debate is to provide a balanced space for all presidential candidates to sell their agenda to Ugandans, and also pledge their commitment to peaceful free and fair elections.

“The debate is also set out to promote the spirit of tolerance and consensus-building between candidates, strengthen the individual/party cooperation and statesmanship despite political differences, promote issue-based discussions between candidates and the citizens, amplify citizens voices and nurture their participation in the Democratic processes, and also put on the record promises made by the Presidential candidates to which they will be held accountable once elected as President,” the statement from the Inter Religious Council of Uganda added

Kitakule insisted that as it was in the previous debate, candidates will not be given questions before hand despite pleas by one of the residential candidates Elton Joseph Mabirizi.

Meanwhile, a report released by Women Democracy Network (WDN), a group under Citizens Election Observer Network-Uganda (CEON-U) has expressed concern over the limited women involvement in the electoral process.

The report that is as a result of a study conducted in 25 districts on women involvement in the elections, highlights the limited access to media for women, unleveled playing field among candidates, and unfair campaign expenditure among others.

UWONET Executive Director Ritah Aciro emphasized unfair campaign demands noting,“ Campaign music apparatus, unnecessary expenditures on Kadodi drives rather than political agenda also disadvantage women.”

Lead researcher Dr. Josephine Ahikire from Makerere University School of Women and Gender said that the systemic deficits are the root cause of women disadvantaged in this coming election.

The report recommended continued engagement with the media, electoral commission and promotion of the women’s manifesto.