Tuesday, 23 February 2016

ELECTIONS: Ugandan lawyers give government 8 conditions

ULS boss Ruth Sebatindira

The Ugandan Law Society has challenged the government to listen to grievances raised after a hotly contested Presidential election won by incumbent Yoweri Museveni.

In a statement signed by ULS President Ruth Sebatarinda, they raised eight concerns that the government should address to help ease the tension raised after leading opposition presidential candidate Kizza Besigye disputed the election. Besigye has since been held under house arrest.

Leading Kampala lawyer Kiryowa Kiwanuka has dismissed the statement, saying it is her personal statement, not that of the ULS.

ULS official Kalule Ahmed Mukasa and Enoch Barata have also disowned "The Post Election Environment"  statement 


(see bottom for reactions to statement) 


It is evident that a somber mood hovers over many parts of our Country after the recently concluded Presidential and Parliamentary elections. 

Presidential election results were announced when at least one Presidential Candidate was under house arrest. That candidate has continued to be variously
incarcerated and press reports indicate continued multiple arrests of opposition supporters. 

In particular, one opposition political party the Forum for Democratic Change appears to be taking most of the brunt of police and security actions which many in the population appear to frown upon.

Ugandans were treated, during and after the vote to a menu consisting of tear gas, firing of live rounds in multiple locations in Wakiso, Kasese, Mukono,
Kampala, Omoro and Jinja and in some cases there are reports of violent clashes among members of the population. 

Recent reports also suggest that another Presidential candidate appears to be under house arrest as well. It has also emerged as a serious concern that the Declaration of Results forms which are by law the basis of tallying of the national result were absent or unavailable at the National Tally Centre.

We must however leave all the fact finding and the evaluation of the circumstances under which most of these events took place to the Courts to
avert any triggers for violence. The Courts have the power to set aside an election if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Court there is non-compliance
with the provisions of the relevant law, or if Court is satisfied that there was failure to conduct the election in accordance with the law and that the noncompliance and failure affected the result of the election in a substantial manner. The Courts have put aside the next six months to attend to only election petitions. Let us trust our Courts and let all aggrieved parties file their grievances with the Courts.  

It is clear to any observer that there are deep-seated grievances amongst the populace. Moreover, we continue to see high numbers of heavily armed
security forces on the streets and a Presidential Candidate who should be facilitated to exercise his right to petition the election results is in jail. 

There is fear, fear of the unknown, fear of violence, fear of arrests, fear of tear gas, fear of live bullets etc. In an ideal situation, the people should not be afraid of their Government. It is incumbent upon any Government to seek to understand its People's grievances and address them. 

Looking at the campaigns and the issues that arose among the people, it is clear that key among these grievances are; 
(i) the restoration of presidential term limits in the Constitution, strengthening the governance and independence of the Electoral Commission and other proposed reforms that Government ignored from a document that was referred to as the Citizens Compact; 
II) rampant and run-away grand corruption; 
iii) endemic institutional inefficiencies;
 iv) unprecedented levels of poverty, gross inequality and unequal opportunities v) overwhelming youth unemployment 
vi) ineffective and in some cases nearly in existent delivery of public goods and services. All these have led to lack of trust in the Government and will be critical issues for any new Government.

People want a Government that creates an efficient and dynamic market that assures prosperity. The unfair treatment of a Presdentiaal Candidate and the arrests of his supporters breed feelings of injustice and intolerance fOr political parties. Political parties are fundamental pillars of democracy. It is also a strange occurrence in an environment of multi-party politics.

As we look at the aftermath of the election, we call on all citizens to maintain law and order and desist from any form of violence. We call on political leaders to practice the politics of inclusion and empathy so as to deepen democracy in Uganda."

We further call for: ­
1. All aggrieved parties, Presidential and Parliamentary candidates, to petition the Supreme Court and High Court respectively for the necessary orders.
2. The Courts to ensure speedy electoral justice by efficiently resolving complaints to avoid further triggers for electoral violence
3. The Police to observe the human rights of the media and all Ugandans and desist from using unreasonable force and illegal detention of opposition
leaders and their supporters.
4. The 10th Parliament to carry out the much needed constitutional reforms as their first business.
5. The Electoral Commission to learn from this election and make the desired improvements; including, the display Of. a signed copy of the declaration 0 f
results form at each polling station which we believe IS Vital In preventing manipulations at the Sub- County and District. 
6. An inclusive National agenda of all political parties and discourage winnertakes-all Government
7. Political and District leaders to explore democratic dialogues for communities to discuss their grievances openly at community centres. This
will help to reduce deep-seated anger, prejudices, and misunderstandings among the conflicting groups.
8. In due course, when the animosity has come down and trust is rebuilt within communities and as the People heal from this process, Political
leaders to consider engaging in a National Democratic Dialogue to enhance and deepen democratic governance in Uganda.
As People and Communities are fragile now, we should all work toward peace, reconciliation and healing which are the most fundamental elements
for social stability.

Ruth Sebatindira




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