Reports Leo Odera Omlo
UGANDA People’s Congress (UPC) president Olara Otunnu wants to meet President Yoweri Museveni and other political party leaders to discuss modalities for free and fair 2011 elections.
“I am aware that President Museveni has repeatedly said he is committed to free and fair elections. Let him accept to meet me and the leaders of other political parties so that we jointly discuss what ought to be done for free and fair elections,” Otunnu said in an interview with The New Vision yesterday at Uganda house.
The former UN diplomat said unlike many other opposition politicians who are preoccupied with capturing power through all possible means; he is preoccupied with advocating for peace and unity of all Ugandans.
“By the way, it should be known that I have no problem with Museveni continuing as the President of Uganda as long he has been elected in a free and fair election. I don’t mind if Museveni rules for as many years as he wants so long us Ugandans freely vote him,” Otunnu explained.
Otunnu said in that meeting of leaders of political parties, church leaders and civil society organizations, should all be included an open public dialogue on the necessary steps that should be taken to ensure peaceful free and fair elections in the 2011 general elections.
“The various categories of Uganda leaders should stop hiding their heads in the sand concerning the issues at stake. There is a clear writing on the wall that the 2011 elections will not be peaceful. Besides the signals from the violent NRM primaries, opposition parties don’t trust the Electoral Commission, the people of Buganda feel they have been trodden upon, and various groups of Ugandans habour bitterness on a number of things the government has not addressed, ” Otunnu argued.
The Uganda constitution provides for establishment of a Political Parties’ Platform where all parties are supposed to come together and discuss issues of national interest and common purpose for the good of the nation, though it has been nonfunctional.
“The situation in Uganda is 100 times worse than was in Kenya as they moved to their previous general elections that ended in destructive violence. Uganda is more vulnerable to election related violence than Kenya was. Whoever truly loves Ugandans should do something to save the people from bloodshed. I have traversed the globe and I know that in all the countries where there is bloodshed and conflicts the situation was as it is today in Uganda,” he added.
Otunnu said President Museveni went to the bush to fight the injustice of vote rigging and should therefore be the first person to support measures aimed at ensuring free and fair elections.
“The issue of a free and fair election is a matter of national interest that oversteps individual and party interests. Let us have an urgent joint gathering of all stakeholders so that we settle the question of free and fair elections once and for all. In that meeting, we shall agree on modality of instituting an Electoral Commission that is trusted by all stakeholders,” he stated.
He cited the September Hillary Clinton report to the congress on the 2011 Uganda elections which concluded that the Uganda government took no action to further the independence of the Electoral Commission.
Otunnu challenged President Museveni to accept his request on basis of his Christian values.
“Museveni always confesses that he is a devoted Christian. The founder of Christianity Jesus Christ told us to treat others as we would want them to treat us. That is the path to fairness and justice. This is therefore a trying moment for Museveni’s Christian credentials and as a crusader of patriotism. If Museveni fails to take the right path he will be harshly judged by history,” Otunnu appealed.
Otunnu and other UPC leaders pulled out of the Inter-Party Cooperation which had sought to jointly dislodge Museveni reportedly after the alliance gave up the fight for an independent Electoral Commission.
“There is no way we can have free and fair elections unless we have instituted an EC agreed upon by all stakeholders and then the new EC cleans up the voter’s register of all the ghost voters. We want fairness, we want justice,” Otunnu appealed.
General elections are slated for between February and March next year. Over 40 presidential aspirants including his main political rival Kizza Besigye have picked nomination forms, although just fewer than ten might contest.