Uganda toughens on Independents ahead of 2016 polls

Uganda Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kahinda Otafiire

Uganda Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kahinda Otafiire

The Ugandan government says the constitutional amendment proposal requiring aspirants to mobilise one thousand signatories for Independent candidates should not apply to all aspirants.

The country’s Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Kahinda Otafiire says only aspirants who will have failed to go through party primaries will be required to collect endorsement of their candidature from one thousand registered voters.

Otafiire did not justify why the aspirants who will have failed to go through party primaries would have to be subjected to the one thousand signature requirement when the constitution allows Independents to contest for any elective post in the country.

The one thousand signature requirement for independent candidates had been bitterly opposed to by politicians, civil society groups and law reform commission among others. Meanwhile Otafire insists the President should remain with power to appoint the chairperson and members of the Electoral Commission.

Otafiire he says the Constitution already has in-built checks and balances regarding the appointment procedure for the Electoral Commission.

Minister Otafiire and Attorney General Fred Ruhindi were again before the legal and Parliamentary affairs committee to defend government proposals in the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2015.

Civil Society and the Opposition have suggested the appointment of the Commission should be through recommendation by the Judicial Service Commission.

But Otafiire says it would be irregular for the commission to be vetted by persons serving on another constitutional commission.

Under the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2015, government has proposed to amend Clause 1 of Article 60 to change the name of the Electoral Commission to the Independent Electoral Commission.

However this proposal is contested by the legal committee members who say that the change in the name does not guarantee the much-needed independence of the electoral body.

Opposition MPs sitting on the legal committee insisted that the president and parliament with elected representatives should be kept out of the process of appointing Electoral Commission.

“ The government constitutional amendment bill is a disappointment depending on what the people have been demanding from government in line with amendments,” Monica Amoding, National Youth MP said.

On the bill being silent on presidential term limits, Otafire said that the justification for the removal of term limits in 2005 was in the multi-party system, the people make a decision every five years to choose their leader and that where a person is rejected by the people in an election leaves the office of the president.

He added that no justification has been fronted to government to warrant a reinstatement of the provision for term limits removed by Parliament in 2005.

On the committee demand for government to table before the committee all the proposals that were received by the Justice Ministry, Minister Otafire said that proposals are being compiled and will only be presented to the committee after the proposals relating to the electoral process and the judiciary under the constitutional amendment bill, 2015 are finalized by Parliament.

Shadow Attorney General Abdu Katuntu accused the minister for trying to hide the proposals from the committee questioning what urgency is there for parliament to consider the constitutional amendment bill, 2015.

However, after a lot of pressure from the committee members the Attorney General Fred Ruhindi agreed to share the proposals that government considered before coming up with the bill.