Sunday March 20 2016

Elections are about people and their country

By Prof George W. Kanyeihamba

There can be little doubt that in the 2016 elections, Ugandans voted overwhelmingly for change. Whatever party, organisation or interest group actively participated in both the presidential and parliamentary elections, the overriding consideration by all voters was change of personnel, change of policies and certainly change in the manner and style the Republic of Uganda has been governed for the last two or more decades.

To imagine or believe that the presidential contest was between Yoweri Museveni and his main and persistent opponent Kizza Besigye or any other candidates is to trivialise the politics of Uganda. The desire of Ugandans for change manifested itself long before the NRM primaries.

Desire for change
Then, there followed the civil war and battles fought, won or lost in the NRM party feuds as illustrated quite clearly by members of that party desperately wanting and voting for change. The desire for that change saw more than 20 ministers lose in both the primaries and parliamentary elections.

Eventually, some of the biggest fish in the Movement, including ministers of Defence, Information, Education, Energy and Economic Monitoring, among others, lost to newcomers in the political arena.

While many Ugandans applauded the decision of Mr Amama Mbabazi, who was not even first runner-up in the presidential election race, for filing a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the announcement by the Electoral Commission that candidate Museveni had won with some 60 per cent of the then provisional declared votes, the failure, acts and behaviour of the FDC party leadership have baffled and disappointed many Ugandans.

FDC appears to have had no courage or respect for professional advice. If it was otherwise, FDC would have given attention and exhibited wisdom and acted on the free advice given to petition separately or jointly with Mbabazi for a decision in the Supreme Court. Such a course appeared to have universal appeal.

Moreover, prior to the deemed expiry of the period in which to file the petition, the FDC party leadership had been strongly advised by some of the best Ugandan constitutional experts and international observers to petition against the declaration of the presidential winner by the Electoral Commission.
There is evidence that some major actors in the FDC decision-making organs were enthusiastically in favour of the petition. Unfortunately for Uganda, other individuals within the party leadership, apparently including the party’s flag bearer himself, refused to accept what most observers, including that party’s members believed to be the better alternative.

It is thus obvious that the thinking of some of the FDC leaders was extremely narrow and myopic and in no way represented the majority views of millions of Ugandans who voted for Kizza Besigye and FDC, not because they necessarily loved both, but because they loved Uganda more and longed for change.

FDC has loudly and lamentably pronounced that it will not cooperate with anyone else or be moved from its fixed position unless there is an independent audit of the results. FDC is adamantly ignoring the professional advice that there is no such thing as independent audit under the Uganda Constitution or any other law.

Independent audit
FDC has failed to inform the country or educate its ardent members and supporters about the basis and foundation of its claimed audit or who is empowered to set it up and determine its membership, mandate or powers of decision and how the same is to be enforced. FDC cannot do so because there is no such thing as an independent audit in the circumstances obtaining in Uganda.

It is quite apparent that FDC has overlooked the provisions of the law that provide that before a party can apply for intervention by an external body that party must first exhaust local remedies.

In the case of the presidential elections, the final local remedy lies in petitioning the Supreme Court and waiting for its findings and orders.

It is, therefore, wrong for any political party to personalise the affairs of the nation and equate them with its own, or worse still of its leaders.
Consequently, Uganda and Ugandans Juu! Juu! Oh, yee! Misguided political party leaders Chini! Chini! Shame!

Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court judge.