Kampala. The outgoing head of the European Union (EU) Delegation in Uganda has said continued claims by former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential flag bearer Kizza Besigye, that the ruling party is in government “illegally” even after the Supreme Court upheld President Museveni’s victory, is not adding anything positive to nation building.
Ambassador Kristian Schmidt was speaking to this newspaper during an interview in Kampala on Friday.
In such circumstances, Ambassador Schmidt counseled, both the winning and losing sides to “dialogue” not because Uganda needs a coalition government but to talk about the common challenges the country is facing such as service delivery or corruption.
“Now if this was in any other democracy, like in some European countries, it would be unacceptable that the Opposition party does not then recognise the winner of the elections.”
He added: “That is of course an issue that is dividing but I think it would have been good to come together and discuss. It has not happened and election reforms seem to be not going forward.”
President Museveni was last February declared winner of the elections with 60.7 per cent of valid votes cast extending his 30-year rule for yet another five-year term. His main challenger, FDC’s Kizza Besigye, received 35 per cent, according to the Electoral Commission.
The third runner up, former prime minister Amama Mbabazi, who ran on the independent ticket, contested the outcome on grounds of non-compliance with electoral laws seeking to nullify Mr Museveni’s re-election.
After the nearly one month tense court battle, the Supreme Court ruled that : “Having made due inquiry into the petition, we find the first respondent (Museveni) validly elected according to electoral laws, we dismiss the petition with no orders [as] to costs.”
The Court, however, concurred with the petitioner that there were some cases of non-compliance such as interferences by Resident District Commissioners, arrests of Opposition candidates and unequal coverage to presidential candidates by public media, especially the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation. The irregularities, the court ruled, never affected the final results of the election in a substantial manner to justify an annulment.
Dr Besigye, had unequivocally supposed early enough, that he would not challenge the results if he lost citing the lack of independence of the judiciary and particularly having contested the 2006 presidential elections and lost.
Ambassador Schmidt also defended the independence of the judiciary in relation to the election petition.
“The law of Uganda is what it is: the conditions of petitions are what they are, and for a petition to be successful you have to do a lot of homework. Under your Constitution I believe you have little time, 10 days. I know one of the recommendations of the Supreme Court is to extend that time which I believe makes sense.”
He said “I think if Dr Besigye was convinced before elections that he would not be happy with the outcomes and the process, he should have been the one to petition. He should have prepared for that but he decided before that he was not going to and under the rule of law.”
The European Union Election Observation Mission said the voter enthusiasm for democratic process was eclipsed by an atmosphere of intimidation further concluded that the national electoral body lacks independence and transparency.
Ambassador Schmidt also called upon regional countries under the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to, as a point of urgency, chart a peace process to the political crisis spiked in neighbouring South Sudan.