Uganda: No Money for Electoral Reforms, Says Otafiire

Members of parliament debate during the plenary session recently. Parliament on Wednesday rejected President Museveni’s directive on Income Tax Bill.

Parliament — The Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Maj Gen (Rtd) Kahinda Otafiire, yesterday said the government is yet to handle the long awaited constitutional review process, including tabling of the proposed electoral reforms, due to lack of funds.

While appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to present the Ministerial Policy Statement for Financial Year 2019/20, Gen Otafiire said his ministry needs Shs13.5b to constitute the Constitution Review Commission and facilitate it to do the work.

He said the government plan was to deal with the electoral reforms during the constitutional review process because they all affect amendments in the Constitution.

The minister was responding to queries from Kitagwenda County MP Abbas Agaba, who chairs the committee. Mr Agaba told the minister that the public is asking questions how the 2021 elections will be held without reforms.

"We are ready for beginning of the exercise but finance have been a problem. So we wait. Now, in the event that the constitutional review delays, it will otherwise constrain our processing of our electoral reforms," Gen Otafiire said.

The minister said since the constitutional review exercise will delay, he promised that government would soon table electoral reforms in Parliament. "I think we shall have to deal with the electoral reforms as they are and we shall be bringing them to Parliament in due course," Gen Otafiire added.

Yesterday, MPs also tasked the minister to explain why the six districts that started on July 1 last year have not held elections. They also asked Gen Otafiire to explain why it takes long for the High Court and Court of Appeal to dispose of election petitions.

Ms Dorothy Azairwe Kabaraitsya, the Kamwenge Woman MP, said legislators, who have pending election petitions in courts of law, have failed to settle down in the House three years after 2016 elections.

"We are already on a new roadmap but there are still pending cases in court. The MPs cannot serve their people because they are up and down due to unresolved petitions," she said.

Gen Otafiire, in response, denied responsibility over the delayed elections in new districts, referring MPs to the ministry of Finance, which he said has not released money. On the delayed election petitions, he said the law bars him from interfering with the work of the Judiciary hence not in position to question judges on delayed delivery of rulings.

Poll reforms' demand

Background. The demand for electoral reforms has been outstanding since the Supreme Court ruling in the presidential election petition filed by former prime minister Amama Mbabazi in February 2016.

On January 30, Parliament gave government up to the end of April to table the electoral reforms. The Electoral Commission last year launched the 2021 election roadmap and some of the activities are already being implemented.

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