18 February 2013

Ghana: Ugandan Minister Lauds Ghana Over Electoral Process

THE MINISTER of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in the Ugandan Cabinet, Hon. Daudi Migereko has applauded Ghana on the success of its general elections and the decision of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to contest the election results in the Supreme Court.

He said this was no mean achievement and added that "We believe this is an acceptable way of expressing dissatisfaction as opposed to resorting to violent demonstrations and may be the gun."

He further expressed confidence that "I know Ghana has long outlived the gun, and we definitely wish you all the best towards concretizing democracy in Ghana."

The Ugandan Minister made this remarks at the opening of a four-day meeting between leaders of Ugandan political parties with representation in parliament and their Ghanaian counterparts.

The meeting, which is on the theme: "The Role of Political Parties in Shaping and Influencing the National Agenda - Lessons from Ghana," is to enable constructive exchanges between the participants on best dialogue processes under democratic practices.

The meeting, taking place in Accra is under the auspices of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) in collaboration with the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA).

Hon. Migereko, who is also the Chairman of the Ugandan Inter Party Organization for Dialogue (IPOD), led representatives of the IPOD, including the National Resistance Movement (NRM -ruling party), Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Conservative Party (CP), Democratic Party (DP), Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) and the Justice Forum (JEEMA) to the ongoing meeting.

He noted that since the establishment of the IPOD, as an inter-party dialogue platform, it has had its own peculiarities, "creating a feeling that we are not moving fast enough", but assured that "we are determined not to lose focus on the overall objective of building a sustainable multiparty political dispensation in our country."

According to him, the NRM ruling party and the opposition parties signed a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of the IPOD in 2010, which culminated in long negotiations that took place in Kampala and Accra, as a clear manifestation that Ugandan political parties had made a historical landmark.

He said since then, IPOD has influenced the management and conduct of elections in Uganda, saying, "prior to the 2011 general elections, IPOD made proposals for electoral reforms and the majority of these were accepted and now part of our election laws."

Also, IPOD had constructive engagements with the electoral commission during the election period and this helped to build confidence and trust in the electoral process to address some of the concerns the political parties had regarding the management of the elections, he pointed out.

"Specifically, our engagement with the electoral commission culminated in IPOD's involvement in the 2011 election as a means of ensuing transparency in the process", he stressed.

Furthermore, they have been able to engage the leadership of the Uganda security forces on several occasions in an effort to build a functioning partnership. He added that under IPOD the political parties have been able to reach agreement on some reform issues and strengthening political parties.

He noted that all parties have reached consensus on having the state to fund political parties in accordance with the political parties and organizational act, emphasizing that "Our latest major achievement has been in regard to making progress on setting the dialogue agenda."

He mentioned that in November last year, IPOD agreed on four major dialogue items; including law and order management in the country and how it relates to the sound functioning of political parties, the financing of political parties, electoral reforms as desired and agreed upon by IPOD and constitutional reforms.

In spite of these achievements, challenges include difficulty in pushing its positions within the political system and mainstreaming them in the national political agenda, he indicated.

He expressed worry that though the IPOD is a formal platform, its decisions are subjected to other political processes, both internally among political parties and within the political system. Also worrying is that many of the structures of IPOD were not fully functional, such that they were yet to convene a meeting of the IPOD Summit, its topmost organ.

The summit, he stated, was supposed to provide political guidance to all the parties, saying "We are convinced that once convened, it would enhance the dialogue process."

In view of this, Hon. Migereko said the exchange with their Ghanaian counterparts was at the right time to enable them "benchmark our performance and get critical appraisal of this performance from those who are more familiar with the interparty dialogue processes."

Their main expectations from the meeting include to fashion out a dialogue agenda for IPOD, to prioritize this agenda according to the strategic insight they would obtain from the meeting.

"We expect to leave Ghana with a roadmap or plan on how to include the IPOD agenda into the national political processes, to contribute to the national agenda for the country, have a devised plan aimed at enabling IPOD to work alongside the national consultative forum in a complementary manner", he noted.

He said they were counting on the support of their partners to be able to propel themselves to greater heights in ensuring that multiparty dispensation in the country can clearly take root.

"We hope at the end, we will make substantial progress in setting the agenda for interparty dialogue in Uganda", he ended.

Briefing the participants on the state of governance in Ghana, Mr. Kwesi Jonah, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Political Science, University of Ghana, referred to Ghana's 2012 presidential elections, saying there was no finality to the elections because the NPP was contesting the election results at the Supreme Court.

He said the court case has drawn state institutions including the Electoral Commission (EC), the President of the country, parliament and the judiciary into the dispute. Also, non-state institutions drawn into the conflict include other political parties that had not gone to court such that some political parties were divided in support of the NPP and NDC respectively.

Additionally, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), think tanks and faith based organizations have all become involved in the dispute and if care was not taken, the dispute would profoundly affect the running of the state, he lamented.

He pointed out that the case was being held in the Supreme Court as well as the court of public opinion; hence all the parties involved were doing everything possible to win the case in both courts or at least one of them.

In view of this, he pointed out that the country would have to contend with the aftermath of the case in court regarding the reaction of the supporters of the party that would lose the case, saying, "This is where the problem lies."

He emphasized that "it does not matter which way the case goes, we will have to deal with it so we don't have to sit down, but be thinking about which strategies to handle in the aftermath."

He called on civil society organizations and think tanks to start thinking about how to handle the post-verdict situation, saying, "the longer it takes, the better it would be to fashion out the way forward."

However, he expressed hope that Ghana was sure to come out of the situation strong because the nation has developed the kind of resilience that should "enable us to cope with the aftermath of the case. More hope comes from the vibrancy of the civil society organizations, NGOs, and faith-based organizations through their capacity for peace building."

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