Political analysts downplay significance of presidential debate

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In short
Mukwaya told URN that the debate lacked seriousness since it was a question and answer lacking grave explanation of issues of importance to the country.

Political scientist Dr. Aaron Mukwaya of Makerere University has downplayed the significance of Friday night presidential debate organized by the Inter Religious Council of Uganda.
Mukwaya told URN that the debate lacked seriousness since it was a question and answer format lacking grave explanation of issues of importance to the country.
Mukwaya attributed this to the debate being voluntary and lacking root in the Constitution and a Parliamentary Act. He argued that if the debate had been organized through the normal institutional law with a penalty for those who do not attend, it would have made sense.
He added that what the country needs at this particular time is a national dialogue where people can discuss issues touching democracy and a strong, secure country.
Professor Ndebesa Mwambusya, a senior lecturer at Makerere University's Department of History, said there is need for parliament to amend the electoral laws to make it mandatory for presidential candidates to participate in debates.
Ndebesa said that presidential debates have failed in the past because candidates did not turn up. These comments come after the nation held its first ever live presidential debate where seven out of eight presidential candidates turned up for the presidential debate.
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The incumbent National Resistance Movement (NRM) presidential flag bearer Yoweri Kaguta Museveni did not turn up for the presidential debate on Friday night at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
The candidates who turned up for the debate that lasted three and half hours included Forum for Democratic Change presidential flag bearer Kizza Besigye, Go-Forward Pro Change leader Amama Mbabazi, Professor Venansius Baryamureeba and others.
The others included Farmers Party leader Rtd. Major General Benon Biraaro, People's Development Party leader Dr. Abed Bwanika, independent candidate Joseph Mabirizi and the only woman presidential candidate Maureen Kyalya.
Professor Ndebesa says that the presence of the incumbent president was key for the debate to hold significance citing that fundamental issues like the question of term limits, age limits, role of the military in politics and others hinge on the incumbent.
NRM spokesperson Ofwono Opondo is on record as saying attending the debate would be a waste of time for the head of state.


About the author

Olive Nakatudde
Olive Nakatudde is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Nakatudde has been a URN staff member since 2013.

Nakatudde started out in journalism in 2009 with Dembe FM radio in Kampala. In 2012, Nakatudde joined Voice of Africa as a political reporter. She has been a photographer since her journalism school days at Makerere University.

Nakatudde is interested in good governance and public policy, which she reports on intensively from the Uganda Parliament. She is a keen follower of cultural affairs in Buganda Kingdom and covers the kingdom's Lukiiko (parliament). Nakatudde also reports on education and health.