By Sakur AbdulSalam
Activists have petitioned the High court, challenging lining up behind candidates instead of secret ballot in the upcoming local council (LC) elections.
Through Niwagaba and Mwebesa Advocates, the petitioners led by Norman Tumuhimbise filed the suit against the Electoral Commission (EC) and Attorney General (AG) before the Civil Division of the High court in Kampala on Tuesday.
Other petitioners include Hamisi Musoke, Beky Achom, Ann Karuhanga, Bashir Mubiru, Tadeo Kawuki and Nicholas Atuhairwe.
According to the petitioners, lining up behind a candidate compromises ballot secrecy and voter’s integrity.
They now want court to declare that the act of lining behind the candidates without secret ballots threaten, compromises and infringes upon the fundamental human rights and freedom of Ugandans, as guaranteed by the Constitution.
“Under the Constitution and International Laws, Ugandans have a right to political/public participation, right to secret ballot and right to free and fair elections,” they contend in their affidavits.
They argue that the guidelines for election of village and parish/ward administrative unit chairpersons, nomination and approval of executive committee of 2017 and providing for voting by lining behind candidate are null and void.
The petitioners further contend that Government has a duty to observe, respect, uphold, promote and fulfill fundamental human rights and civil liberties of all persons.
According to EC road map, the LC elections will be conducted on November 21, 2017.
Ugandans last voted for LC1 positions in 2001. Currently, Uganda has 57,842 villages with over 34 million population. Each LC1 represents at least on average 587 people.
According to EC guidelines, for one to aspire for LC 1 position, he or she must be a resident of the said village, Ugandan citizen, and a registered voter of above 18 years.
It further indicates that no academic qualification is required for election of village chairperson. The aspiring candidate shall be accompanied by his/her seconder with two copies of nomination form to the parish electoral official.
In his affidavit, led petitioner Tumusiime avers that lining behind candidates will expose voters to intimidation, undue influence and manipulation.
When contacted, EC Spokesperson, Jotham Taremwa said “The activists are free to petition court over it because it is their right. Let’s wait for court’s ruling. For the meantime, our program is still on,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Civil Court Deputy Registrar, Sarah Langa has given the AG and EC 15 days to file a written statement of defence on the above allegations.
“You are hereby ordered to file your defense within fifteen days from the date of receipt of service against the allegations or else the court shall proceed with the hearing of the case and judgment will be delivered in your absentia,” she warned.