A section of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) members has protested what they termed as the “ringfencing” of East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) positions.
They are appealing to the party Chairman, President Kaguta Museveni, and the Central Executive Committee (CEC) to change their decision to endorse the incumbent EALA Members of Parliament.
The contestants say they were on July 8 invited to Entebbe State House by the President to participate in the vetting process before CEC as the NRM party flag bearers to which they all obliged.
However, to their dismay, the top organ made a resolution they weren’t party to.
Last week, CEC resolved to endorse and maintain the current NRM MPs at EALA, locking out over 80 contestants that had expressed interest in the six slots.
CEC noted that the incumbent EALA members be maintained in recognition of their exceptional performance to continue their tenure for another term as Members of EALA.
It further argued that the incumbent EALA members be endorsed to the NRM parliamentary caucus as NRM candidates for the same positions.
The aggrieved contestants say it’s unconstitutional and erodes democracy within the party.
A joint statement signed by over 10 contestants asked CEC to quash its decision saying it is outside their (CEC) mandate and that of the NRM.
Robert Webale, one of the contestants, said that the NRM Electoral Commission should be left to carry out a democratic electoral process as required and present winners to the NRM Parliamentary Caucus to enable them participate in a free and democratic election as democracy requires.
“It’s not too late to take responsibility and do the right thing for the party and the East African Community,” he said.
Mivule Ronald described the decision “to ring-fence the positions exclusive to the incumbents” as “unfair, unjust, undemocratic and unconstitutional”.
“One wonders where CEC derives the powers to ring-fence positions of flag bearership of EALA MPs to which that power is constitutionally a mandate of the NRM parliamentary caucus. We are deeply saddened by the hypocrisy and irresponsibility exhibited by the NRM Electoral Commission to invite us to express interest in contesting for ring-fenced,” Mobile said.
Ruth Karungi said as members, they want to be vetted by the NRM parliamentary caucus, not CEC. She said if it fails to rescind its decision in three days they will take the party to courts of law.
Robert Rutaro, the counsel to the contestants, argues that his clients had already incurred a lot of expenses (in terms of time and financial resources) in preparation for and mobilizing for support to be elected as party EALA MP flag bearers, which costs are unaccounted for.
He said for them to be disenfranchised at the last moment by a CEC resolution and denied opportunity to stand, contest, and campaign to be voted for the position of flag bearer, “is undemocratic and dictatorial”.
Rutaro said that NRM CEC has no mandate under any law, including the party constitution, to hand-pick candidates for elective offices without giving those candidates the opportunity to be heard.
However, responding to the claims, the NRM EC chairperson, Dr Tanga Odoi, said all CEC did was legal and if the contestants feel aggrieved, they can proceed to court.
“CEC has been there as long as elective politics. If they think endorsing the six is political betrayal, CEC didn’t close other avenues for them. They can still go back and stand as independents,” he said.
“They should be advised that instead of running to court they should consult with a member of parliament whether they can run as independents. As chairman of the NRM EC, we did our part, I called for expression of interest and got 130 names and since we are answerable to CEC, I cannot take these names without taking them to CEC. What I did is within the law, if CEC in its wisdom says that Tanga, we want only the six, as the chairperson of EC, I will present the six to parliament.”
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