Parliament Vets New EC Commissioners as Opposition Boycott Meeting
Parliament’s Appointments Committee has approved the appointment of five commissioners of the Electoral Commission.
The approval of Justice Simon Byabakama as chairperson; Hajjati Aisha Lubega as deputy; Professor George Piwang; Stephen Tashobya and Mustapha Sebagala Kigozi as commissioners was however shadowed by the Opposition’s decision to boycott the vetting process.
The new team, which was appointed by President Yoweri Museveni last month, replaces the Engineer Dr. Badru Kiggundu-led team, whose 14-year tenure expired on November 17, 2016.
Led by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Winnie Kiiza, the opposition MPs who sit on the 24-member Appointments committee, refused to attend the vetting process, citing failure by President Yoweri Museveni to make good of his promise to consult with different political stakeholders in regard to selecting candidates to head the electoral body.
The Appointments committee, chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, on December 5, 2016, gave the team the green light to enter office.
However, Kiiza and Betty Aol Ochan, Gulu Woman MP, UPC Chief Whip and Oyam Woman MP, Santa Alum, Democratic Party Chief Whip and Kalungu West MP, Joseph Ssewungu Gonzaga plus Buhweju County MP, Francis Mwijukye declined to attend the meeting.
Kiiza said it was unfortunate that efforts by the Opposition to demand for an inclusive process in the appointment of the Commissioners, has been ignored by the appointing authority.
“We are wondering why the President rushed to appoint the new EC commissioners. The President faulted in his promise to consult the Inter Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) in August this year on the appointment process. Nothing has happened since,” Kiiza said.
She said their refusal to attend the meeting is a symbol to the people of Uganda, who have for long agitated for electoral reforms.
Justice Byabakama, while speaking to journalists at Parliament, shortly after appearing before the committee, said the new team will focus on cleaning the image of the EC, which has been bogged by accusations of facilitating vote rigging for the ruling NRM government.
While responding to a question on handling a treason case against former FDC presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye in 2005, Justice Byabakama scoffed at opposition critics who accused him of playing to the tunes of the government.
“I have handled several cases, even in thousands and I did them in a professional way, required by law executing my duties which I am proud of,” Byabakama stressed.