The visiting top American diplomat for Africa, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, on Thursday asked President Museveni to reconstitute the Electoral Commission to include more representation of all political parties.
Sources say Mr Carson, a former US ambassador to Uganda, told President Museveni public confidence in the election process ahead of the 2011 ballot is vital.
However, Mr Museveni, according to a statement issued by State House, defended EC chairman Eng. Badru Badru and his other six commissioners as professionals properly vetted by Parliament’s Appointments Committee, comprising opposition MPs.
In Thursday’s statement, Ms Lindah Nabusayi, the deputy presidential press secretary, said during the closed-door meeting Ambassador Carson “said that some groups in Uganda had raised concern over membership of the commission. He said they feel that there should be more representation to the electoral body.”
In recent months, the Inter-Party Cooperation, a grouping of four opposition political parties, has demanded the disbandment of the current commission.
But the President, who reportedly met Ambassador Carson for close to three hours, appeared unfazed – at least in remarks captured by his press team.
Cup of coffee
“The President advised Uganda’s development partners not to allow opposition politicians to confuse them with lies,” State House said.
Mr Museveni is reported to have said: “When they come, give them a cup of coffee to boost our coffee industry and send them away because what they are complaining about can be discussed in the Inter-Party Forum [a consensus-building avenue for all parties].”
Ms Joann Lockard, the public affairs officer at the US Mission in Kampala, when asked if Ambassador Carson dropped a letter calling for outright disbandment of the EC, said: “I’m not aware and I can neither confirm nor deny that.”
Thursday’s meeting also discussed reported flaws in the ongoing biometric voter registration exercise.
The four leaders of IPC; UPC’s Otunnu, Dr Kizza Besigye (FDC), Mr John Lukyamuzi (Conservative Party) and Mr Mohammed Kibirige (JEEMA) met late into the night on Thursday at their Katonga Road head office in Kampala, ahead of their meeting with Ambassador Carson on Friday.
“Mr Museveni listens more to foreign diplomats and international voices,” said Mr Ibrahim Nganda, the IPC spokesman.
“Ambassador Carson is a unique visitor and we are going to speak to him about electoral reforms, the attempts by the ruling NRM party to rig the upcoming elections and the swindling of public resources by government officials.”
Meanwhile, Reuters news agency reported last evening that Uganda’s opposition could boycott the elections.
“This EC is deeply discredited and cannot hold a free and fair election as demanded by the Constitution,” Kibirige Mayanja, chairman of the IPC told Reuters.
“We hope the government will hear the desire of Ugandans and sack the leadership of the EC. But should they remain obstinate we’ll boycott any electoral activity organised by them.”
US Ambassador to Uganda Jerry Lanier; Mr Vann Van Diepen, the acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Security and Non-proliferation, General William Ward, Commander of the US Africa command accompanied Ambassador Carson.
The Uganda delegation included the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa and his Permanent Secretary, Ambassador James Mugume.
Mr Mugume later said Ambassador Carson had asked Uganda, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, to support a draft resolution for sanctions on Iran that his country introduced on Wednesday.