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NRM opposes calls for state of emergency ahead of 2021 polls

NRM party officials led by secretary general Kasule Lumumba appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to discuss the revised election road map and proposed political party regulations. PHOTO via @pwatchug

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The ruling National Resistance Movement-NRM party has opposed calls by different political players for government to declare a state of emergency because of the Covid-19 pandemic which would result in the postponement of the 2021 general polls.

The party officials led by the secretary general Justine Kasule Lumumba were appearing before the legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. The Committee is collecting views on the revised election road map and proposed political party regulations.

However, over the past few days different political players have called on government to declare a state of emergency and postponement of the 2021 polls in order to allow them participate in a traditional election that would allow them hold campaign rallies as opposed to the virtual campaigns as proposed  by the Election Commission (EC).

A state of emergency is where government suspends normal constitutional procedures to regain control. It is usually declared during national disasters, war and civil unrest, a pandemic or epidemic among other risks.

Responding to questions by legislators in regard to the failure by government to declare a state of emergency, NRM’s legal director Oscar Kihika, said President Yoweri Museveni isn’t satisfied that the current Covid-19 circumstances require a declaration of state of emergency provided for under Article 110 of the constitution.

“Clearly as things stand, the President is not satisfied. This Article expressly provides that the President must be satisfied before he declares a state of emergency. Now obviously the declaration of a state of emergency is not a simple matter because most of the arguments that we have heard is that there should be a state of emergency and what follows thereafter is a postponement of the election. That decision is a very serious one because you are pulling the power of people of selecting their leaders away from the people. I believe that His Excellency doesn’t take this matter very lightly,” he said.

Kihika also said that he thinks that the President is satisfied that under the current circumstances, enough measures have been taken to ensure that there is no need to declare a state of emergency.

The lawyer further explained that declaration of a state of emergency brings in serious consequences relating to civil liberties and can lead to abuse of power.

Kihika also noted that in case of a state of emergency, Uganda has an existing law on emergencies passed in 1968..The Emergency Power Act.

“It gives a lot of powers to the Minister of Internal Affairs to pass all manner of statutory instruments which would actually give him powers to arrest people without due process under the excuse of trying the maintain emergencies. Actually when you read that Act now, there might be certain aspects that are probably inconsistent with our current Constitution,” he said.

He however said that up until the declaration is made, the powers that would be concentrated in a couple of people are frightening especially if one is not sure that the person is governing the country in the best interest of the population.

However, Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga said that circumstances that led to a declaration of a state of emergency in 1966 are totally different from the current circumstances.

NRM lawyer Kiryowa Kiwanuka also weighed in saying that the mode of election activities always keep changing arguing that changes in an electoral process does not mean that the election is abnormal.

His statement followed a submission by NRM party secretary general, Justine Kasule Lumumba who said that there should be an election come 2021 since it is government’s responsibility to make sure that Ugandans exercise their right to vote as per the constitution.

Lumumba however said that political parties should be funded to cater for the implications posed by the revised election road map.

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