Sunday February 23 2014

Must we first tear Lukwago’s shirt to see the needed electoral reforms?

By Joachim Buwembo

Hey, when are the elections to be held?” asked the minister’s maid as she crossed her leg and precariously balanced her tea cup on her knee? She was watching a local commentator on TV analysing the NRM parliamentary caucus’ recent endorsement of their single candidate.
“Twenty four months,” I said after a quick mental calculation. “Three months to mid-May 2016”

“But they have just shown the political parties and those civil society people giving a list of the changes that are needed before the elections,” she remarked.
“So?” I asked.

“I thought the new election rules should come first before parties start selecting candidates!” she observed.

“The NRM party is not bound by the wishes of civil society, and it can endorse it’s candidate anytime it finds convenient,” I reasoned.

“And what if the new rules are made and their chosen candidate does not qualify to stand?”
“Stop your theories,” I almost barked, then I remembered I was not her boss and technically, she was a guest in the house, albeit a frequent one. “I mean, all laws must be consistent with the Constitution and their candidate is qualified according to the constitution.”
“What if a constitutional amendment makes him unqualified?” she asked.

“I said you are being theoretical,” I said wearily. “That caucus makes a two third majority, so which amendment can be passed if they don’t like it, especially if it adversely affects their candidate?”

“So will there be no reforms of the election rules?” she cross-examined.
“The reforms will come when the right time comes,” I answered.
“The civil society activists said the reforms are overdue,” she stated matter-of-factly.
“Wish them luck,” I scoffed.

“You know they can demonstrate,” she warned.
“And they will be scattered,” I said before she finished.

“And they will demonstrate again,” she fished a piece of paper from her jeans on which she had apparently been noting as the activists listed described their basket of reforms and read, “They want a new electoral commission, a new voters’ register, a clear role of the armed forces, controls to ensure public funds don’t go into anybody’s campaign, new criteria for selecting presiding officers, clear boundaries for electoral areas, representation of all parties in processing voting materials, their freedom to assemble, er.. and er.. I missed some of their points because I couldn’t write fast enough. I assure you those people will demonstrate again and again.”

“And they will be scattered again and again,” I said.
“It is the police who are not party to the disputes who will be diverted from their other work to come and scatter them,” she noted.
“It is their job to maintain law and order,” I said.

“But there are other important things for the police to do,” she argued. “And their name will be spoilt because cameramen concentrate on police and never show the bayaye stoning uniformed police officers, they only mention when a police officer gets killed. If we didn’t have police guards at home I wouldn’t know how much they suffer at the hands of rioters yet they are not part of the political disputes.”
“It is their job,” I said lamely.

“Anyway, the rioters will resist, and it will be all over the papers and television,” she reminded, excitement lighting up her eyes as if she was watching the violent demo on TV. “The bayaye who like the kavuyo will throw stones and steal traders’ stuff, then Lord Mayor Lukwago will refuse to go home and police will drag him away and his shirt will get torn and for the nth time everybody will see his chest which is browner than his face. I thought only his wife should see his chest, why should we be forced to see it?”

“You look away when his shirt gets torn,” I said irritably as I looked around for an excuse to leave her alone in the living room. My maid was taking too long to come back from the kiosk where she had gone to buy I don’t know what.

“But must we first see Lukwago’s chest before the changes get discussed?” she was still ranting. “Cant the same caucus that you say has the majority also lead the reform?”
“Your friend is taking too long at the kiosk; can you please go fix me some coffee?” I said and she got up to oblige. By the time she brought the coffee I was pretending to be extremely busy at my desk so she left me alone.