We cannot stop Museveni from donating, says EC boss

Justice Simon Byabakama, the Electoral Commission (EC) chairperson has said that his body has no powers to stop President Yoweri Museveni from donating to Ugandans even during campaigns.

Mr Byabakama who was appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, on Monday, said that the law does not define when the president is conducting his presidential duties and when he is conducting political party activities.

He was responding to queries by Opposition MPs who included including Mr Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East), and Ndorwa East MP, Mr Wilfred Niwagaba, who attacked the Commission for looking on as the crime of voter bribery is committed by Mr Museveni in Rukungiri District, ahead of a by-election to choose the Woman MP on May 31.

Mr Sseggona and Mr Niwagaba questioned whether this was not voter bribery considering that the Electoral Commission has already issued a road map for the by-election in Rukungiri District.

Mr Sseggona reminded Justice Byabakama about the administrative guidelines issued by EC, wondering why the same guidelines have not been issued on the conduct of the president.

At the weekend, President Museveni gave out 500 motorcycles, 25 Fuso trucks, seven tractors, 20 commuter taxis, high powered woodwork machines worth billions of shillings, to various groups of people in Rukungiri Municipality.

The President later posted on his official Twitter handle that his government ushered in politics of unity as opposed to tribalism and called on residents to reject leaders who preach tribalism.

Mr Museveni also said that although money to fight poverty is available, local leaders need to monitor and discuss the issue in district councils.

“Government allocates about Shs500 billion for anti-poverty programmes like Operation Wealth Creation. The leaders here should not just focus on abusing Museveni. They should transform their communities as well,” Mr Museveni wrote, saying his trip was geared towards showing the leaders what they ought to be doing.

Mr Byabakama denied any wrongdoing by the Commission arguing that although guidelines are rolled out informing people on what to do during campaigns and elections, the law doesn’t seem to define when the President is conducting his presidential duties or when he is campaigning.

Justice Byabakama reminded MPs that the same matter constituted part of the Supreme Court recommendations in the 2016 Presidential election petition and still government has gone silent on enacting laws as recommended in the ruling.

He said campaigns in Rukungiri have not yet started because nomination has not taken place and therefore, there is no way the Commission can prevail over the President’s controversial donations.

Committee Chairperson, Jacob Oboth Oboth ridiculed Opposition MPs telling them that although Mr Museveni’s donations look painful, they have to deal with it since that is the power of incumbency.

The Court of Appeal on March 22 declared the seat vacant following a successful petition by Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate, Ms Betty Bamukwasa Muzanira.

Ms Muzanira lost to Winnie Matsiko in the February 2016 elections but petitioned court citing voter bribery.

High Court Judge Wilson Kwesiga on August 8, 2016 dismissed Mr Munazira’s petition with costs, but the petitioner took the matter to the Court of Appeal which ruled in her favour.

The justices of the Court of Appeal stated that Ms Muzanira’s evidence proved that Ms Matsiko made donations during the campaign period at Kibale and Nyarushanje Catholic churches.

So far, four candidates have expressed interest in the seat. They include; Ms Matsiko (NRM), Ms Muzanira (FDC), Ms Sheila Akatukunda Kirebete and Ms Prisca Sezi Bessy Mbaguta, who wish to contest as independents.

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