Why are we quiet about local council elections?

Logic follows that longevity in the office of the President makes the long ‘serving’ occupier of that office a ‘known entity’. President Museveni has occupied the Presidency of the Republic of Uganda for 28 years. For that reason he has shared his views on the record. He is a ‘known entity’- has written down his thoughts in books, pamphlets. We have a blueprint of his views on multiple issues. It is depressing when politicians get face to face with him – in cabinet, in parliament, on radio talk shows – and their level of preparedness to discourse with him is infantile; they are mostly unable to present to him clear and intelligible comments and questions.

One would expect, for example, that the proverbial ‘white elephant’ in the room of Uganda’s governance at the grassroots – Local Council (LC) at village (LCI) and parish (LCII) – to come up at all interactions on governance – with or without President Museveni. Granted, his leadership is credited with developing the LC system which ‘devolved’ political power from the centre all the way to the village level – a thorough disruption of the status quo at the time. Previously known as Resistance Council (RC) system the LC system starts at village level – all adult people of a village, that is the electors, form the village council from whom they elect their committee of nine to run the local affairs of the village on a day-to-day basis, describes President Museveni in his book titled: Sowing the Mustard Seed.

The term of office of those currently holding positions in LCI and LCII committees across the country expired in 2006, but they continue to serve. “Since 1993, we have added new roles to the range of responsibilities of local councils.  They vet recruits into the army and police, they have judicial powers to decide some of the civil cases, and they have been made responsible for a broad range of development in their areas, such as building clinics, dispensaries and schools”, writes President Museveni. Considering that LCIs and LCIIs have such far reaching roles and the people currently carrying out these roles are doing so illegitimately, how is this not a frontline issue for politicians to hold President Museveni accountable at every single opportunity, especially when he is patting himself on the back for building Uganda’s democracy?

It is a constitutional requirement to have LC elections every five years. That they have not been conducted in 13 years is a gross violation of the Constitution of Uganda; and this has happened during the term of office of President Museveni. I do not buy the pretext of not holding these elections on account of no money. “In the beginning we did not use secret ballot for these local RC elections, we just asked people to line up behind the candidates of their choice. People were very happy with this for the simple reason that it eliminated cheating – which goes to show how much the practice of elections had been perverted in the past”, writes President Museveni. So what has changed now?

We need to question the motives of all those frustrating LCI and LCII elections. Why are they averse to a simple and cheap method that gives instant results?  Apparently, wives will be beaten and tenants will be thrown out if they do not line up behind the right candidate – you think that the results of a secret ballot will not reveal the voting pattern? Then again, apart from central region where there is mailo land – omutaka-kibanja holder relations – how many rural Ugandans actually live in rented houses or on rented land?

Also published in Daily Monitor http://www.monitor.co.ug/OpEd/Commentary/Why-are-we-quiet-about-Local-Council-elections-/-/689364/2561358/-/62f1nx/-/index.html

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