To boycott polls or not to; reason for IPC’s crack

Wednesday August 25 2010

By Gerald Bareebe & Mercy Nalugo

Kampala

A crisis meeting convened on Monday to iron out disagreements in the opposition coalition failed to agree on whether to boycott the 2011 elections, effectively ending their cooperation as initially imagined. Reports from the closed-door meeting indicate that Uganda Peoples Congress president Olara Otunnu unsuccessfully tried to convince the other four Inter-Party Cooperation leaders to boycott the elections.

Mr Otunnu, sources reveal, argued that the opposition should not take part in the elections when they are well aware that the national voters register is bloated with ghost voters who will ‘vote’ in favour of the ruling party.

Daily Monitor has learnt that Mr Otunnu’s proposal was rejected by other leaders in the coalition; Dr Kizza Besigye (FDC), Asuman Basalirwa (Jeema), Michael Mabikke (SDP) and CP’s Prof. James Kigongo

Call rejected
“We told him (Mr Otunnu) that if we boycott elections but Mr Bidandi Ssali (PPP) and Dr Abed Bwanika (PDP) participate President Museveni will go around telling the world that he defeated the opposition,” a source, who asked not to be named in order to discuss the matter, said. “We cannot do that because we will be hurting the people who have entrusted us with their support for this long.”

The UPC leader was quoted to have told the meeting, “When we said the current EC is not independent we meant it. When we said the voters register is fraudulent, we meant it. So, unless those issues are addressed first, we shall be wasting our time.”

At this point, IPC officials asked him to say whether this meant UPC was pulling out of the coalition. He never gave a definite answer but asked to be allowed to “consult UPC structures.”

Separately, the Monday meeting also threw out Mr Otunnu’s assertions that FDC was trying to use the coalition to widen its influence at the expense of the allying parties. IPC spokesperson Ibrahim Nganda Ssemuju told Daily Monitor that Mr Otunnu has up to August 30 to get nominated as one of the potential IPC presidential election flag bearers. He said, “The National Conference [to choose flag bearers] which we have organised at Namboole will have to go on whether UPC joins or not.”

UPC protests
But Otunnu’s spokesperson, Robert Kanusu, said handing down deadlines was unfair. “If someone starts giving you deadlines then know that the principles of goodwill, transparency, mutual respect and consensus have failed,” Mr Kanusu said. “Those principles are core pillars of IPC.”

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