Justice Simon Byabakama, the Electoral Commission chairperson has said that his Commission has no powers to stop President Yoweri Museveni from donating to Ugandans even during campaigns.
Byabakama who was appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee said that the law does not define when the president is conducting his presidential duties and when he is conducting political party activities.
He was responding to queries raised by Opposition MPs including Medard Lubega Sseggona for Busiro East MP and his Ndorwa East counterpart Wilfred Niwagaba, who attacked the Commission for looking on as voter bribery is committed by President Yoweri Museveni in Rukungiri District ahead of the Woman parliamentary by-election.
Sseggona together with Niwagaba questioned whether this was not voter bribery considering that the Electoral Commission has already issued a road map for a by-election in Rukungiri district.
Sseggona reminded Byabakama about the administrative guidelines issued by EC, wondering why the same guidelines have not been issued on the conduct of the president.
Over the weekend, President Museveni gave out 500 motorcycles, 25 Fuso Trucks, seven Tractors, 20 commuter taxis, High powered woodwork machines worth 193 million Shillings to Rukungiri Municipality Carpenters and Traders’ Association which has 5,000 members.
The President even took to his official twitter handle saying that his Government ushered in politics of unity as opposed to tribalism and called on the residents to reject leaders who preach tribalism.
Museveni also said that although funds to fight poverty are available, the local leaders need to monitor and discuss this in district councils.
“Government allocates about 500 billion Shillings for anti-poverty programmes like Operation Wealth Creation (OWC). The leaders here should not just focus on abusing Museveni, they should transform their communities as well,” Museveni wrote, saying that his trip was geared towards showing the leaders what they ought to be doing.
The donations come just over a month before the districts goes back to the polls to elect a Woman Member of Parliament on May 31.
Byabakama denied any wrongdoing by the Commission arguing that although guidelines are rolled out informing people on what to do during campaigns and elections, the law doesn’t seem to define when the President is conducting his presidential duties or when he is campaigning.
Byabakama reminded MPs that the same matter constituted part of the Supreme Court recommendations in the 2016 Presidential election petition and still Government has gone silent on enacting laws as recommended in the ruling.
He also noted that campaigns in Rukungiri have not yet started because nomination has not taken place and therefore, there is no way the Commission can prevail over the President’s controversial donations.
Committee Chairperson, Jacob Oboth Oboth ridiculed the Opposition MPs telling them that although Museveni’s donations look painful, they have to deal with it since that is the power of incumbency.
Early this month, the Electoral Commission (EC) released the road map for Rukungiri Parliamentary by-election setting May 31 as voting day. The programme commences with an update of the National Voters’ Register from 16th to 20th April in each of the 87 parishes and wards in the district.
The Court of Appeal on March 22 declared the seat vacant following a successful petition by Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate, Betty Bamukwasa Muzanira.
Muzanira lost to Winnie Matsiko in the February 2016 elections but petitioned court citing voter bribery. High Court Judge Wilson Kwesiga had on August 8, 2016 dismissed Munazira’s petition with costs, but the petitioner took the matter to the Court of Appeal which ruled in her favour.
The justices of the Court of Appeal stated that Muzanira’s evidence proved that Matsiko made donations during the campaign period at Kibale and Nyarushanje Catholic churches.
Court noted that there was disenfranchisement of voters whereby the final results of the election of 5,413 voters were not counted when Matsiko was declared winner, thereby ordering the Electoral Commission to conduct a by-election.
In its road map, EC set nomination of candidates to be conducted for a period of two days, on May 2 and May 3, at Rukungiri District Headquarters. Campaign meetings are to be held for a period of 26 days, from May 4 to May 29. Elections will take place on Thursday May 31, 2018 between 7am and 4:00pm.
So far four candidates have already printed posters eyeing the same seat. They include; Winfred Matsiko of the ruling NRM party, Betty Bamukwasa Muzanira of FDC, Sheila Akatukunda Kirebete and Prisca Sezi Bessy Mbaguta, both independents.