The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party has distanced itself from politicians calling for the declaration of a State of Emergency in the country which would result in postponement of the 2021 General Election due to the spread of Covid-19.
Some Opposition political parties led by Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), who have opposed the Electoral Commission’s (EC) guidelines that require candidates to conduct digital campaigns instead of the traditional public rallies, have been calling for a declaration of a State of Emergency.
President Museveni announced a countrywide lockdown in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 cases have since risen to 971 as of yesterday.
Appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee yesterday, the NRM Secretariat team led by the secretary general, Ms Justine Lumumba, differed with MPs who were asking why President Museveni has declined to declare a State of Emergency but let Ugandans risk their lives by going into elections under the current circumstances.
“As things stand now, the President is not satisfied to declare a State of Emergency as referred to in Article 110 of the Constitution. The declaration of a State of Emergency is not an easy thing,” Mr Oscar Kihika, the NRM party director of legal services.
He was responding to a matter raised by Bukooli North MP Gaster Mugoya, who asked the NRM officials why the government has “declined the responsibility to evoke Article 110” to declare a State of Emergency.
Mr Kihika told the MPs that by postponing the elections as a result of a State of Emergency, the government would usurp the powers of the people to elect their leaders every five years.
Referring to the ugly scenes that followed the 1960s State of Emergency, Mr Kihika said such a declaration in the current circumstances will pose serious concerns to the entire country regarding civil liberties.
“Those of you who are agitating for a State of Emergency, there are serious issues with it. When the President chooses not to take this step, you must know where he is coming from. He doesn’t want to take away the powers of the people,” Mr Kihika said.
Article 110 (1) of the Constitution provides that the President, in consultation with Cabinet, can declare a State of Emergency in Uganda or any part of the country after satisfaction that the country is facing such circumstances as being threatened by war or external aggression; threat to security or economic life of the country; and threat to public safety. The State of Emergency is supposed to last 90 days but is extendible.
However, in the event that the elections are postponed as a result of a State of Emergency, the NRM government would relinquish power on May 12, 2021, when President Museveni’s term ends and hand over to the Speaker of Parliament.
The NRM officials raised reservations on the EC revised 2021 roadmap, but nevertheless insisted they were ready to participate in the 2021 polls under what has been termed as “scientific” elections where the public campaign rallies have been banned.
Ms Lumumba said the EC only needs support of all the participating political parties and actors to conduct a credible election under the current circumstances.
She urged political parties to continue engaging with EC and among themselves to form a common ground to enable the Commission conduct free and fair elections despite the Covid-19 pandemic constraints.
The NRM team also asked government to give more funds to political parties to be able to deal with the financial challenges and expenses arising from or occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.