Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Several opposition politicians have criticized the Uganda Joint Christian Council-UJCC for calling for the suspension of the January polls and extension of President, Yoweri Museveni’s rule for three years.
The Kampala Archbishop Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga made the statement while delivering a Christmas message on Wednesday in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical organization that brings together the Church of Uganda, The Roman Catholic Church and Uganda Orthodox Church.
In the statement, Lwanga observed that they arrived at the decision during one of their meetings where they discussed the current situation in the country characterized by the COVID-19 pandemic and human right violations.
“Our top leadership of UJCC to which I am the current Chairman discussed this entire sad situation at length and we came up with a resolution that we should postpone the presidential elections for at least three years so as to allow both the COVID-19 pandemic and the electoral climate to cool down,” his statement reads.
UJCC called for an amendment of the constitution to allow President Museveni to continue ‘ruling and guiding’ the country during the period of the three-year postponement of the elections. Dr. Lwanga called upon members of Parliament who are entrusted with the role of legislation to have an honest debate about the subject.
However, the proposal hasn’t gone down with opposition politicians and candidates with some branding it as ‘useless and total madness.’ Independent presidential candidate, Nancy Kalembe wondered why the respected religious leaders would come up with such a statement at a time when everybody’s focus is tuned to the polls, which are three weeks away.
Kalembe wondered whether there might be a syndicated move between the sitting government and the religious leaders in question.
Kalembe also dismissed the proposal to amend the constitution, saying previous amendments have only benefited the incumbent.
In 2005, the constitution was amended to get rid of the two-term constitutional limits for the incumbent president. It was again amended in 2017 to get read of the 75 year age limit to pave way for Museveni, who was approaching the age limit cap, to seek re-election.
Mathias Mpuuga, the deputy president in charge of the Central region in the National Unity Platform-NUP noted that the religious leaders might have a point since the country is under a crisis of COVID-19 but asking parliament to amend the constitution to allow Museveni three more years is “over-prescribing medicine for the current sickness”.
Mpuuga advised the religious leaders to instead advise the president to invoke Article 110 of the 1995 Constitution, which empowers him to declare a state of emergency and hand over the power to the speaker of parliament.
Muhammad Kateregga, the General Secretary of the Justice Forum [Jeema] party, says the prelate’s word would carry meaning if it had come early. Kateregga says considering such a decision with the presidential election three weeks away would only cast the country into turmoil.
Harold Kaija, the Deputy Secretary-General the Forum for Democratic Change described the statement as ‘unfortunate.’ He, however, said they will discuss the proposals as a party and come up with a befitting response. The prelates are not the first people to call for the postponement of the 2021 general elections due to COVID-19.
Mid this year, several political actors including independent presidential candidate, Gen Henry Tumukunde, Democratic Party’s Norbert Mao, NUP and Robert Kyagulanyi called for the postponement of the elections. Even President, Museveni hinted at the same during a televised interview, saying that it would be madness to hold elections if COVID-19 was still a threat to Uganda. At that time Uganda had registered only 121 positive COVID-19 cases and zero deaths.
Uganda is currently experiencing a surge in CPVID-19 infections. The country registered 489 new COVID-19 cases on December 22, 2020, bringing the cumulative number of confirmed cases to 32,399. The country also registered 7 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday bringing to 245, the number of the dead