The ruling party, the National Resistance Movement, wants electoral laws amended to specifically permit the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) to support the Uganda Police Force in providing security during elections.
The proposal was one of a host of proposals on various electoral laws presented by the NRM Secretary General, Justine Kasule Lumumba, to the House Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on Tuesday, 17 September 2019.
The Committee is carrying out consultations on the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019; Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019; Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2019; Political Parties and Organisations (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Local Governments (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
Lumumba argued that the rationale for the UPDF providing security during elections is to cater for circumstances where Police may require back up from sister security agencies.
“Unless the law prescribes for situations where back up may be required; there is a danger that such interventions may be declared illegal,” Lumumba said.
Legislators however said that the Police has capacity to provide security during elections.
Hon. Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (FDC, Kira Municipality) said that Police cannot reach a point where they will need support from the army.
“I am very uncomfortable with involving the army in election issues,” Ssemujju Nganda said.
Hon. Medard Sseggona (DP, Busiro County East) said that police enjoys a civil relationship with the public.
“Why involve the army whose mandate is not civil in character,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NRM also proposed that a person should only be eligible to stand for election as an Independent if that person has ceased being a member of a political party or organisation 12 months before nomination day, or having never been registered as a member of a political party or organisation.
Lumumba said that in the current law, people are free to walk in and out of a political party, which compromises political parties’ operations during and after elections.
“We support this amendment because it prevents disruption and sabotage of political party strategy and activities,” Lumumba said.
Lawmakers however said that the proposal is unconstitutional and infringes on the rights of Ugandans to participate in the country’s democracy.
Hon. Veronica Eragu Bitchetero (NRM, Kaberamaido County) advised that political parties should hold credible primary elections to avoid cases of Independents.
“What mischief is the party looking to cure on Independents? It is the parties that should contain the presence of Independents,” said Bitchetero.
Hon. Abdu Katuntu (FDC, Bugweri County) said all political parties are faced with internal disagreements which need to be addressed.
“We have tens of members here who participated in primaries and lost. They contested as Independents and won. Draconian laws that want to curtail rights of others should be discouraged,” Katuntu said.