Former Ugandan prime minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi says it is illegal for the ruling party to demand that presidential hopefuls pay 20 million shillings -- the equivalent of $6,000 -- to obtain the papers needed to enter the race for the party's nomination.
Mbabazi, who recently declared his plans to challenge longtime President Yoweri Museveni for the leadership of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, said the demand from the NRM's internal election commission contradicts both the party's and the country's constitutions.
“It is [illegal] under the law actually, because what he was looking at was the Presidential Elections Act as well as the constitution itself and it does show that in this case there is nothing like that [allowed]," said Josephine Mayanja-Nkangi, spokesperson for the former prime minister.
Mayanja-Nkangi also denied local media reports that Mr. Mbabazi refused to take the NRM nomination papers.
“He did not refuse to take the paperwork; it was not given to him," she said. "The head of the NRM’s electoral commission, professor Tanga Odoi, let him know that the rules require for him to make a payment first before he can have access to those forms …[And] that the forms have been reverted to the Central Executive Committee of the NRM to be discussed."
The spokesperson says Mbabazi could seek legal redress about the NRM electoral commission’s requirement.
“That is something that he would do if he has to, but at the moment his lawyers have gone ahead to draft his complaints and what he is standing on to make those complaints to the Central Executive Committee to ask them to review the regulations because as it stands, he actually had a copy of the regulations of the nomination forms. So, they’ve written and hoping for redress,” said Mayanja-Nkangi.
Critics say Mbabazi, as former secretary-general of the ruling party, should be aware of the rules governing the party’s internal democratic culture. They also said his decision to seek the party presidential nomination is a publicity stunt, because President Museveni, who enjoys popular support, will likely seek re-election.
Mayanja-Nkangi disagreed. “These are new rules; these rules did not exist until a week ago. They were not in the party at all, never had been. In fact they are not in the party constitution."
“The way Professor Odoi explained it, he says in the NRM constitution not many rules are set for the electoral commission. So, what they have done is to create these new rules to govern the process, which is fine. The only issue is that the rules that they have set are not correct both in law and spirit of the law,” she added.
Former prime minister Mbabazi recently was arrested by the police on his way to a scheduled meeting with supporters in Mbale, in eastern Uganda. Police said he was arrested because he refused to cancel the meeting despite repeated warnings.
The arrest took place right after he announced plans to seek the NRM party's nomination ahead of next year’s general election.