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Ugandan Judge Laments Lack Of Electoral Reforms

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Douglas Mpuga

A retired Ugandan Supreme Court Judge has decried the excessive use of money in the ongoing campaigns and warned that the country cannot have free and fair elections when votes are for sell.

Prof George Kanyeihamba told VOA that the election might go to the highest bidder unless the voters take the money but vote for the right candidate.

Uganda will hold presidential and parliamentary election on February 18 and President Yoweri Museveni is running for his fourth consecutive term.

“It is grotesque,” Justice Kanyeihamba said, adding “it is unbelievable - the elections in Uganda have become commercialized. We can no longer talk about free and fair elections but the most expensive votes and the highest bidder most likely will be elected.”

The retired judge described as a bribe the money given to members of parliament last week to allegedly monitor government projects.

Last week Government deposited to every Member of Parliament’s bank account 20 million shillings to oversee the National Agricultural Advisory program in their constituencies which the Opposition has also called a bribe from President Museveni for favors in next month’s election.

“It is a crime,” said Kanyeihamba, “If you can connect people being given rewards to influence how they vote. It is a criminal act under our constitution and our laws.”

He said if it was the opposition who had been caught doing [bribing] that most likely there would be a prosecution but “if they are supporters of the government or the ruling party you can be assured that no action will be taken.”

The retired judge said the campaigns are peaceful so far but the problems usually come on election eve, on voting day and during the counting of votes.
He said this year’s election is not likely to be different from the previous two elections (2001 and 2006).

“The same problems, the same scenario we encountered in those last elections is likely to reoccur,” he said.

Kanyeihamba noted that the ground is not level and the electoral reforms recommended by many people and institutions have not been implemented.

“Even the police seem to be partisan, he said, “Some of the acts they have been involved in such as stopping rallies of some of the opposition candidates and the way they have tolerated activists of the ruling party indicate the police are partisan – supporting the ruling party. Fortunately there is no evidence the army is doing the same.”

Having abolished the limit on the number of terms he can serve in 2005, Mr. Museveni – who earlier this year became East Africa’s longest-ever serving head of state after 24 years in power – will face off against seven competitors.

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