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Uganda Opposition Leader Demands Electoral Reforms Ahead of 2011 Elections

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Kizza Besigye says unless Uganda achieves meaningful electoral reforms, the country could plunge into another era of political instability and violence

The leader of Uganda’s main opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) said he believes next year’s presidential election will not be free and fair.

Kizza Besigye said unless Uganda undertakes and achieves meaningful electoral reforms, the country could be plunged into another era of political instability and violence.

“We are now in the process of stumping for electoral reforms, and I can see that we are at such a crossroads where if the next election is equally not credible, my prediction is that Uganda will plunge into another era of political instability and violence,” Besigye said.

Besigye said the reforms before the 2011 elections should include the appointment of an independent elections commission and the removal of the military from monitoring elections.

“As I have said, the last two elections were grossly rigged, and the same electoral commission has just been re-appointed by candidate Yoweri Museveni who is going to be contesting the next election. So really you have an electoral commission which serves at the pleasure of one of the candidates,” he said.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni

President Museveni’s decision last year to re-appoint Badru Kiggunda as chair of the country’s Electoral Commission was met by violent protests from opposition supporters.

Kiggundu was accused of rigging the 2006 elections in favor of President Museveni.

But he told VOA last year that he was proud of the way his commission handled Uganda’s past elections.

Kiggundu said Uganda has a legal framework, and that if the opposition is dissatisfied with his reappointment, then they should take legal recourse.

Besigye is being challenged by retired Major General Mugisha Muntu to be the FDC’s candidate in the 2011 presidential election.

Besigye said only he offers the best chance to defeat President Yoweri Museveni in 2011.

“I have already been a candidate twice and been through two elections and was the runner up in both elections. In the 2006 elections, according to the declared results, I got 10 percent of the polls more than I had got in 2001 in spite of the fact that the elections were grossly rigged and the Supreme Court of Uganda declared them as not free and fair. So my colleagues considered that I offer the party the best chance still to take power from the ruling government,” he said.

Besigye said the fact that he is being challenged by General Muntu is a sign of transparent democracy within the FDC.

“Obviously our party members would like to take power, and so they obviously look for a person who will give the party the best chance. And we do so through a very open and democratic process. And if I am not to be chosen the party will still have got what it wants, a person that is considered as the best to give us success,” Besigye said.

He agreed there is always the danger that the FDC could hand President Museveni the 2011 election if the contest for the party’s presidential candidate is not conducted properly.

But Besigye said both he and General Muntu are politically prudent and conscious of their responsibilities.

He said he would support whoever the FDC chooses as its presidential candidate because the party is not about him.