AUGUST 25, 2010: Catholic bishops warn of poll chaos

Catholic bishops warn of poll chaos

SOURCE: The Monitor

By Tabu Butagira

The Catholic Church has raised “deep concern” over staggering preparations for next year’s elections and suggested review of “appointment of the Electoral Commission” as part of wide reforms to forestall likely anarchy.

The Episcopal Conference, which brings together all the 32 current and retired Catholic bishops, in a June 11, 2010, pastoral letter but circulated to media houses yesterday, expressed dissatisfaction with government’s and the Electoral Commission’s handling of pre-vote activities.

Deeply concerned
“We write with passion and deep concern that the road towards the 2011 general elections is creating a lot of anxiety, doubts, fear and moments of hopelessness among people of God,” the letter says in its preamble.

It adds: “Elections by their nature should and must provide our electorate with regular opportunities to peacefully comment, challenge, change and review their government ...As the country is preparing for general elections in 2011, we religious leaders cannot ignore Uganda’s problems of tyranny, war, violence and fraud.”

The 32 bishops, who spiritually shepherd more than 10 million Ugandans, say they decided to speak out on the upcoming ballot to “avoid what may cause confusion and animosity among our people”.

They raise issue with stolen votes in previous elections, the role of the army in elections, late enactment of laws and fund releases to the EC as well as operational “shortcomings” that have eroded public confidence in the electoral body. “An effective and accountable Electoral Commission is required to guarantee free and fair elections,” the clergymen wrote. “There is, therefore, a pressing need to tackle areas where the EC has been inefficient. However, this requires a strict review of the appointment and management of the Electoral Commission.”

Government Spokesperson Kabakumba Masiko yesterday said the Catholic leaders’ push to re-constitute the EC is not about to happen. This, she said, is partly because it would require constitutional amendment by lawmakers presently combing their constituencies to secure re-election.

Speaking to this newspaper by telephone, Ms Masiko said, “We have also had shortcomings with the Catholic Church some of whose leaders engage in lesbianism or sleeping with the very Christians they are supposed to shepherd. “Should we also demand reforms in their appointment? This Electoral Commission is competent, effective and efficient and requires the support of every stakeholder to organise credible elections.”

In the pastoral letter, the prelates, whom President Museveni has previously warned to keep off politics, said the Church represents the moral conscience of a nation and she is expected to spell out what is good or bad, right or wrong, in the political life of a community.

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