KAMPALA – Kyambogo University Public Lecture has taken place for the very first time at the University. The lecture which was organized under the theme “The Road to 2021, How Prepared are we?” has been attended by various big horns from the Government, for example, Ofwono Opondo-the government spokesperson. In addition Justice Simon Byabakama – the Electoral Commission Chairperson and Honorable Medard Ssegona, Crispin Kaheru, Former Coordinator CCEDU.
The event was officially opened by the University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Eli Katunguka who revealed that the University Council is pushing the university to hold such public engagements on issues that affect Uganda, and its people and also to make an intellectual discussion where historians, political scientists and all those schooled in that area can air-out their views and impression many members of the society may have.
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Justice Simon Byabakama who was a Keynote Speaker said an election is not a mere event, it’s not a day of polling that it is critical but a series of activities while in time which has to be undertaken leading to that day of polling. This is why the Electoral Commission in December 2018 launched the road-map to the general elections 2020-2021.
“The purpose of rolling out the road-map in time is to inform all the citizens of the country, the key stakeholders that this is what will be followed up to the time of polling. It also helps us to plan and budget appropriately.” He added.
“Crispin Kaheru, former coordinator CCEDU, are we ready for the road to 2021 or not,” Sheila asked.
“To answer whether we are ready for the 2021 general elections or not, there are four physical elements that we have to review. First, we have to ask whether we have the right legal framework that we are going to employ and deliver a free and fair election. Secondly, we have to check the administrative capacity of the election management body,” Crispin Kaheru said.
“Thirdly, we have to check if the stakeholders involved in the elections are actually informed if they are comfortable participating in the electoral processes but also if they are engaged to take part in the elections. Finally, we also have to check if there is positive will from the two major stakeholders in the electoral processes, the government on one hand and the citizens on the other. Therefore, for me, I think those are the four benchmarks we need to look at. If we are to actually determine whether we are ready or not for the 2021 general elections.” Crispin Kaheru added.
“Ofwono Opondo, you are the spokesperson of the government, and Crispin has just asked a lot of questions for you for example questions about the right legal framework. There are concerns that the government has taken its time to tackle these reforms. How ready is the government to free and fair election come 2021”, Sheila asked.
“Yes, I do speak for the Government of Uganda and the NRM. The government is ready to ensure that there is nobody who prevents elections on account of them being able to breed and sustain violent behavior to disrupt any electoral process including the ongoing one,” OO said.
“The NRM set a very high standard and we don’t shy away from letting Ugandans hold us for the very high standard that we set in 1986. We continue to upgrade where we fall short. The NRM is not shy to admit its mistakes and rectify those mistakes. I want to believe that we shall be able to submit our record of performance to explain the short forms. In addition, the basis of which we shall submit an election manifesto and a list of candidates for all the elected positions,” He added.
“The NRM party is already engaging different organs of the party. We have also matched the internal party process with the National Party processes. Therefore by about April-May next year, the NRM by its constitution will be ready to select candidates to those positions.
I want to believe that we shall engage in every process. We are already calling upon every Ugandan to engage with the ongoing process of updating the voters’ register. For instance with particular emphasis on the NRM membership, NRM supporters and sympathizers. We want to make the election the most decisive for the NRM,” he added.
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“I want to call upon particularly the first time voters. Above all, the ones going to be 18 years and are going to register for the first time. We estimate about 4,000,000 new voters. We also want to encourage young people to turn up and vote.
Byabakama revealed that in a multi-party dispensation that Uganda is in, the political parties are given an opportunity to know what is bound to take place. Hence allowing them to carry out their internal activities will enable them to participate in an election in a free manner.
He added the delay in the supply of election logistics which happened in 2016 was not intentional.
“Are we really ready for the 2021 elections,” Sheila the moderator asked Hon. Medard Lubega Sseggona (MP Busiro County East) who represented DP President Hon. Nobert Mao.
“I am not coming here to critic but to make my own perception of how I see things. There are many stakeholders in every election. One of them is the Electoral commission which organizes elections. Others are the parliament, the executive, political parties and individuals. With respect to positions in government, I don’t think we are ready,” Medad SSegona said.
In his remark, Ssegona noted the country isn’t ready for the 2021 elections.
“I don’t think we are ready, all isn’t ready. In my Parish called Nabbingo, we have more than 50,000 voters but we have one computer for voters’ registration. We have been moving to tell our people to go and register but they ask us where those registering are!. ” Said Ssegona.
The time allocated for verification is not enough. We don’t have to expect a smooth road to 2021 from Yoweri K. Museveni. We don’t intend to capture power by the barrel of the gun. However, we shall use our heads to capture power. He added.
When asked for the assurance of whether he is independent of the expected decisions as far as EC is concerned, Justice Simon Byabakama confirmed that he is.
“I want to assure you that we are independent. Also, comply with the laws and the way you give facts depending on the situation,” he said.
“I am a person with a disability and I will take an instance from the previous exercise that you are talking about in 2016. One of the challenges that we faced is a communication challenge. As a deaf person, I could see and I could easily know who I was voting for but how about a person with visual impairment? How do you intend to address this?” Kinji from the audience asked.
Most of the attendees cautioned the government spokesperson and the Chairman EC to explain the security deployment. For example, the army and police during every election which is likely to be a ruling party trick to create intimidation in the voters.
On a larger extent, the general audience’s reactions learned so much on the transparency in the Electoral Commission. In addition, time allocated for verification of names on the voters’ registers, votes rigging and elections violence.
The representative of the chair Kyambogo University council honorable Olive Namazzi closed the first Kyambogo University Public Lecture 2019.
“I would like to, first of all, thank the University Vice-Chancellor. Also and his team for organizing the very first public lecture at Kyambogo University,” Namazzi said.
She also said as a University council, they are tasking management to organize more public lectures at the University.
“I would like to thank in a special way the Chairperson of the electoral commission, Justice Simon Byabakama for sparing some time to attend,” she added
In conclusion, Olive Namazzi urged Kyambogo University students to go ahead and take part in the 2021 elections.