AUGUST 7, 2010: Besigye Promises Peoples' Protests

Besigye Promises Peoples' Protests

SOURCE: The Monitor

By Gerald Bareebe

Kampala — The opposition yesterday announced plans to stage what they called a nation-wide protracted peoples' protests against the Electoral Commission despite an existing police order against holding demonstrations.

Along the way, the opposition hopes to raise more than one million signatures from voters. The signatures will accompany a petition to be presented to the Speaker of Parliament, Mr James Ssekandi.

Addressing journalists in Kampala yesterday, Dr Kizza Besigye, the leader of the Inter-Party Leaders' summit, the highest organ of the Inter-Party Cooperation, said the protests are intended to emphasise their demand for a free and fair election in 2011. He, however, did not say when the protests will start.

Dr Besigye said electoral reforms can be pushed through if there is political will to change. He dismissed the view that there is no time to implement reforms. "What is lacking is the will not the time," Dr Besigye said. "The Constitution was amended in two days to remove [presidential] term limits and that's because there was will by those concerned because it would benefit them."

The retired army Colonel, who is also the president of the Forum for Democratic Change, said a free and fair election is a non-negotiable facility that the people of Uganda, like other nationalities, must enjoy.

Dr Besigye promised a much more robust campaign. "We are changing it from a campaign led by ourselves to a people-led campaign," Dr Besigye said. "We are re-stating our rejection of the President Museveni-imposed Electoral Commission. It has been very instrumental in rigging on behalf of the regime and that is why we insist on a new and independent Commission."

It was the first joint press conference by IPC leaders after nationwide demonstrations organised by the National Alliance for Free and Fair Elections two weeks ago resulted in about 80 opposition supporters getting arrested.

Flanked by Justice Forum (JEEMA) President Asuman Basalirwa, Uganda Peoples Congress Secretary General, Joseph Bossa and Conservative Party boss, John Ken Lukyamuzi, Dr Besigye affirmed that the opposition will be taking part in the 2011 elections. Until yesterday, the opposition has pushed the line that they would not participate in an election organised by the EC as presently constituted.

"We insist that elections in Uganda must be subjected and judged by the same internationally accepted standards of electoral probity applied everywhere in the world. "We therefore condemn the exceptionalism which has been accorded to the Museveni regime in the past."

The Supreme Court found widespread irregularities in both 2001 and 2006 presidential elections which they said were not conducted in accordance with electoral law but ruled that the non-compliance was not substantial enough to change the outcome. Before the start of the mass protests, Dr Besigye said, the opposition will seek a meeting with the police, the judiciary and civil society and other senior citizens interested in violence-free polls.

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