MAY 9, 2010: Museveni Hits Back At Clinton Over Elections

Museveni Hits Back At Clinton Over Elections
SOURCE: The New Vision
By Barbara Among
Kampala — PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has promised free and fair elections next year and warned the United States and the United Kingdom against lecturing Uganda on democracy.The President's assurance was based on Uganda's Constitution, which he said is superior and clear on elections.

However, he admitted that the voter register has problems, largely because it is manual.

"The only remaining problem is the computerisation of the voter register. Once we are done, this will be the Mecca for democracy," said Museveni.

The President made the remarks on Friday while addressing journalists at a press conference at Entebbe State House.

He had been asked to react to a report issued by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in which she accused the Government of failing to sort out the voters register, just months to the elections.

Clinton said the Government had taken no action to establish an accurate and verifiable voter register and doubted that the ongoing biometric voter registration system would weed out double registration.

The report also raised concern about the independence of the Electoral Commission, Police harassment of opposition politicians and stifling of the media.

In a reaction at the press conference, Museveni promised to write to Clinton, stating Uganda's position on the report.

"We shall answer her, but what I know is that the election in Uganda will be the most free in the world," he argued.

"Our Constitution is the best in the world, unlike some of these countries with unclear laws."

Museveni criticised the just-concluded elections in the UK, which produced the so-called Hung Parliament, in which no one won an outright majority needed to form the next government.

As such, the Conservatives, who won the most seats, are negotiating a possible marriage with the Liberal Democrats who came third in the elections.

Museveni said despite this confusion, Uganda was not lecturing the UK about elections.

"In the UK, people are rioting on the streets; no one has won," he said.

"The electoral commission in the UK is very inefficient; but we don't go lecturing people and issuing reports on that."

Asked about corruption in Government, the President said: "Corruption is there but the problem is proving it. But we have over the years developed capacity to deal with the thieves."

He said corrupt government officials would be charged, particularly engineers, health and forestry officials.

The President said the permanent secretary of the health ministry, Mary Nanono, is not off the hook yet, although the Inspectorate of Government cleared her of charges of defying his orders to label government drugs.

"I am the one who appoints permanent secretaries. I will read the report and if I am not satisfied I will talk to the Attorney General," Museveni said.

On child sacrifice, Museveni said he was closely following the cases, especially the one of 10-year-old Margaret Babirye, whose mutilated body was found in a forest in Katugwe in Wakiso district.

The Police have arrested three suspects.

The High Court recently also acquitted city businessman Kato Kajubi of murdering 12-year-old Joseph Kasirye in Masaka in 2008 for ritual purposes.

"On Kajubi , I am glad that the Police have protested the judgment and the Director of Public Prosecution has appealed the case," Museveni said.

On the environment, the President said the incomplete environmental laws, coupled with corruption, were contributing to deforestation.

"The foresters in Uganda are the biggest enemies of forests. The peasants invade the forest and the forest authority takes bribes from peasants," Museveni said.

He called for a law to protect forests and trees both on public and private land. "It is private land, the forest is yours, but don't cut the tree," Museveni said.

He also noted that deforestation is caused by population growth, urbanisation and lack of adequate electricity.

Museveni called on Ugandans to plant forest trees but also fruit trees.

"Over 40 million cubic metres of wood is destroyed annually because of firewood and charcoal. That is why we must insist on electrification. Anyone who is against it, should be resisted," he stressed.

On urbanisation and bad roads in Kampala, the President said plans are in place to make Kampala a metropolitan city, as well as those towns in the oil drilling areas.

He said the Government is to work on five major roads in Kampala.

After the press conference, the President launched a tree-planting campaign dubbed '31 million trees, 31 million Ugandans. You and I plant a tree'.

The campaign, championed by Nile Broadcasting Services TV, aims at convincing every Ugandan to plant a tree by June 2011 to mitigate the effects of climate change.