Opposition MPs today boycotted a session of Appointments Committee that approved Justice Simon Byabakama as the new Electoral Commission Chairman. Despite the boycott from the opposition, however, the appointments committee chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga continued with the vetting process.
Byabakama will now replace Eng. Dr. Badru Kiggundu who retired in November after 14 years in charge of the national elections body.
Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza together with other four legislators including Kalungu West MP Joseph Sewungu, Oyam Woman MP Santa Alum, Buhweju County MP Francis Mwijukye and Gulu Woman MP Betty Aol kept away from the meeting. They accuse President Yoweri Museveni of failing to keep his promise on electoral reforms.
Kiiza states that the Inter -Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) met the president in July and he agreed to commit to the process that would lead to a series of electoral reforms including the composition of the EC.
She says the other parties in the IPOD were meant to have met the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda in August but he has never bothered to call for a meeting.
Kiiza, who was flanked by the Democratic Party (DP) whip in parliament Joseph Ssewungu, noted that going ahead to appoint new EC commissioners was a show of dishonesty on the part of the president.
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Despite the boycott from the opposition, the appointments committee chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga continued with the vetting process.
Moses Bwalatum, the principal Information Officer at parliament told URN that the LOP sent her apologies to the Speaker but did not give reasons as to why she was not attending the meeting.
Bwalatum also noted that the office of the Clerk and that of the Speaker have not received any objections to any nominees in particular and that the Speaker doesn't have any explanation as to why other opposition members have not attended, save for that of LOP.
"The quorum of the Appointments Committee is 10 members. The sitting has 15 members presently and it is proceeding according to the Rules of Procedure and the Law," says Bwalatum.
Justice Byabakama approved
Clad in a stripped dark blue jacket and a matching pair of trousers, the jolly but composed Byabakama stepped out of the vetting room with a sense of confidence that the committee will nod to his appointment in the affirmative.
Speaking to journalists at parliament, Byabakama said that he had a wonderful interaction with the committee and that he believed he answered most of the questions to the best of his ability.
On what the public should expect from him, Byabakama said that EC is a very important body in the democratisation process of Uganda. He said he is determined to ensure that the negative perceptions that have prevailed in the minds of sections of the public are erased.
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Justice Byabakama also revealed to journalists that while before the appointments committee, he requested Speaker Kadaga to address the issue of inadequate funding to the Electoral Commission in order for it to execute its mandate.
He hinted on the repeated demand for electoral reforms saying that Parliament and the Executive should take the lead to ensure that these are put in place early enough to avoid inconveniences.
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On opposition casting doubt on his performance after taking part in the 2005 treason and rape case against then FDC party leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye, Byabakama said that he handled this case in his capacity as a prosecutor and that he was mandated to carry out the role on behalf of the State.
He said that he handled this case like any other case, guided by evidence and in execution of his professional duty.
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The appointments committee also endorsed Commissioner Peter Emorut. Speaking to URN after being vetted, Emorut was guarded in his responses.
"It was a good interaction, the committee was friendly but no planning now, they promised to get back to me", said Emorut.
Stephen Tashobya was also okayed by the committee and proposed that the Commission on which he is going to serve should have one term of office to mitigate corruption tendencies.
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The others waiting for vetting include, Prof. George Piwang, Ssebagala Kigozi and Hajati Aisha Lubega.