Mbale, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A section of opposition leaders in Eastern Uganda have petitioned the European Union ambassadors on the upcoming 2021 general elections.
Nine European Union Ambassadors led by the EU envoy Atillio Pacifici have since Monday been in Mbale town for their end of year retreat.
The ambassadors including that of France, Ireland, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy and Sweden on Thursday held with a closed-door meeting with Opposition leaders from the Democratic Party, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and People Power.
Addressing a press conference about the key highlights and messages received in their retreat, the Head of the European Union delegation Atillio Pacifici noted that they received a message from the opposition leaders about the need to have an independent neutral Police Force ahead of the 2021 elections in order to ensure fairness in the polls.
Ambassador Pacifici also noted that the leaders highlighted the importance of having an independent Electoral Commission also raising concern about the anticipated violence and emergence of militia groups. Also reported by the Ambassador was the call by the Opposition on the importance of having electoral reforms early.
Pacifici, however, noted that the call for electoral reforms is long overdue since they also made recommendations several years ago which are yet to be put in place.
Also in line with the upcoming elections, the Denmark Ambassador Nicolaj Hejberg said that the leaders were also concerned about the on-going voter verification exercise where majority of youth reportedly risk being left out.
However, Belgium Ambassador Rudi Veestraeten and EU Ambassador Pacifici said that their main interaction with the opposition and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party was not to side with one of them but to learn more about the country’s political environment.
Denmark’s Ambassador Hejberg further emphasized that one of their duties is to encourage dialogue among all parties so that to promote good governance and avoid violence in elections.
France Ambassador Jules-Armand Aniambossou also said that listening to all political sides in the country is important saying that their duty was not to support any or finance them to further their ambitions.
Asked about the message they received while meeting NRM’s Women League Chairperson Lydia Wanyoto and the Police officers in the Eastern region, Pacifici said that issues about having people lining up during the election for purposes of openness were raised, something the EU does not agree since it infringes on secrecy.
Pacifici said that the officers reassured them about security during the elections.
The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee is currently considering several electoral reforms presented by government recently. Also, another Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2019 authored by Shadow Attorney General William Niwagaba that seeks to put in place several reforms ahead of the 2021 general elections is in the pipeline.