EC turns to prayers for peaceful polls

Mr Kiggundu (L) joins other EC staff during prayers for peaceful polls. PHOTO BY JOSEPH KIGGUNDU

No government official yesterday showed up at a function organised by the Electoral Commission and the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda at Kololo Airstrip to pray for a peaceful run- up to the 2011 polls.

According to the programme, expected were the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament, and Chief Justice.
Traditional and political party leaders, and Members of Parliament were also invited but never showed up, save for Moroto MP Benson Obua Ogwal (UPC) and Kampala Resident District Commissioner Alice Muwanguzi, who later spoke on behalf of the government.

At the function, the Men of God lit 112 candles, representing the number of Ugandan districts and prayed for the election of only God’s chosen leaders.

Two big tents were filled to capacity by EC staff, while another was occupied by the police band members and different church choirs. Another was half- filled by religious leaders, but the biggest tent set aside for government dignitaries remained empty.

Opposition leaders present at the function would later say that the EC’s unpreparedness cannot be replaced by prayers, but with actions and evidence that they are ready.

They said the EC should have by now released in the media, the total number of voters following the display exercise at the tribunal level where some names are expected to have been struck off for reasons of death, underage or shift of location.

Suspicions persist in mainly opposition circles that the 15 million voters’ figure announced by EC chairman Badru Kiggundu is not accurate.

Questions abound as to how in a country where, according to the latest population statistics, more than 55 per cent of Uganda’s estimated 31 million people are younger than the legal voting age of 18 years, that number could be genuine.

“We only take to God things that we can’t do as people. Does Kiggundu think a final voters’ register will come from heaven like the Koran?” Dr Abed Bwanika, president of the Peoples’ Development Party, asked.

“Let his team prepare themselves for the polls and the nominations and leave the rest to God.” MP Ogwal on the other hand told this newspaper that because the EC had not informed Ugandans who was remaining on the voters roll, was evidence that they were not prepared for the task.

In July, the Uganda Episcopal Conference wrote a pastoral letter titled, “Building a Peaceful, United, and Prosperous Uganda through Free and Fair Elections” in which they called for consolidation of electoral democracy in the country.

Unwanted consequences
“Many are already sensing improper handling in the ongoing process and fearing unwanted consequences,” the letter read.
The church leaders said they were writing the letter to guide the country as to how confusion and animosity can be avoided among the people.

The government’s response to their letter through Information and National Guidance Minister Kabakumba Masiko was disparaging with the minister saying the Catholic Church did not have the moral authority to comment on the prevailing situation given its own internal problems involving priests and sexual matters.

The EC meanwhile promised to avail a copy of the voters register to each candidate next week. They also said the prayer function was one of the functions on their roadmap and they had to fulfil it as scheduled.

“It is not true that the register is not ready. We have it and we shall avail it to whoever is through with nominations (on Monday and Tuesday),” Mr Paul Bukenya, the EC deputy spokesperson told Daily Monitor, on phone.

“We are not hiding anything. The law is very clear and we shall give them the registers,” Mr Bukenya added.