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Ugandan Opposition Leader Warns Credible Vote at Risk

  • Peter Clottey

Olara Otunnu, leader of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC)

Olara Otunnu, leader of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC)

The leader of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) has called on Ugandans to resist what he said is President Yoweri Museveni’s plan to rig next year’s election, a day after he withdrew from an opposition coalition.

Ambassador Olara Otunnu, who was also a former U.N. Undersecretary-general for Children’s Affairs, said he will continue to demand an overhaul of the electoral commission to ensure the vote scheduled for February is free and fair.

“The reason for the opposition parties coming together [were] to press for genuinely free and fair elections in Uganda. That is the glue that held us together. That was the reason for being of this umbrella organization. We went from a demand for free and fair election to taking very specific position. We said the current electoral commission is part and parcel of the Museveni rigging fraudulent machine,” he said.

Ambassador Otunnu pulled out of an opposition coalition formed to challenge President Museveni in next year’s vote saying some of the parties reneged on an agreement that stipulates that they demand the electoral commission be replaced before next year’s vote.

Ugandan opposition groups have rejected previous election results saying the electoral commission is biased towards President Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) party – a charge supporters of the ruling party deny.

Otunnu said the opposition group failed to adhere to stipulations of the agreement that led to the formation of the coalition.

“We said we will have non-cooperation, non-participation, non-recognition with regards to the electoral commission. Then, we said that the voter register, which is being put together by this electoral commission, could not be the basis for organizing free and fair election. It turns out that four of the five parties…planned to participate in the election organized by that same [electoral] commission,” Ambassador Otunnu said.

President Museveni’s opponents have expressed concern that his re-appointment of the same members of the electoral commission that organized the previous two elections will undermine the credibility of the 2011 vote.

Analysts say the withdrawal of the UPC from the coalition will undermine opposition efforts at providing a stiff challenge next year. Otunnu said next year’s vote will be rigged unless there is an independent electoral commission that is determined to organize a credible vote.

“Part of the opposition getting together was to ensure that we could have a regime change in Uganda through the ballot box [and] through a democratic process. I can tell you there is no way on earth that you could have a regime change in Uganda as long as you operate on rules which are put in place and controlled by [Mr.] Museveni.”

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