Kampala-The European Union delegation to Uganda has expressed reservations about the ability for the recently tabled Constitution (Amendment) bill, 2015 to provide tangible reforms ahead of the general elections scheduled for 2016.
The delegation led by EU Ambassador H.E Kristian Schmidt today, June 5, 2015, met the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to discuss proposed electoral reforms and the Non Government Organisation bill, 2015, which seeks to provide a conducive and an enabling environment for the NGO sector.
“We see this as a missed opportunity. The [electoral reform] issue is becoming divisive with some sections of the public saying they’re not being taken seriously,” said H.E Kristian Schmidt.
The Constitution (Amendment) bill, 2015 intends to amend the Constitution and change the name of the Electoral Commission (EC) to the Independent Electoral Commission; prescribe the procedure for the removal of its Commissioners; increase retirement age for judges and justices; and for related matters.
“The Constitution (Amendment) bill did not meet our expectations, but we are outsiders. The civil society, clergy and public made a number of very good suggestions, which were ignored… the reforms presented are cosmetic and do not address substantial issues,” he added.
The delegation met the Speaker at her Boardroom and included the British High Commissioner, Alison Blackburne; Ambassador of Ireland, Donal Cronin; Ambassador of Italy, Domenico Fornara and the Germany Ambassador, Peter Blomeyer.
The ambassadors said the bill still gives powers to the President to appoint and dismiss Commissioners of the Electoral Commission.
“What we believe is the objective criteria in selection of Commissioners. They should be screened by the Judicial Service Commission or another independent body,” said Amb. Schmidt.
He also said that the EU is considering the President’s and Prime Minister’s request for an EU Election Observer Mission because of Uganda’s strategic location in a politically turbulent region. . However the EU wants to see a clear commitment by the government to conduct free and fair elections, he said.
On the NGO bill, Amb. Schmidt said that it is disappointing that the draft bill is not in line with the Ugandan NGO policy.
The delegation asked for enough time to be given for consultations of both the Constitution (Amendment) bill and the NGO bill in order to include a wide variety of views.
“You have the powers to steer the House; we entrust this to you, you have our full support,” said Amb. Schmidt.
Kadaga, said she was disappointed that the Constitution (Amendment) bill was presented towards the end of the 4th Session giving Parliament only a few months for its consideration.
“The bill should have been presented at the start of the 4th Session or during the 2nd or 3rdSession;  is a political year, I do not see serious work done this year,” said Kadaga.
The 2nd Session of the 9th Parliament commenced in June 2012 ending May 2013, while the 3rdSession commenced in June 2013 to May 2014. The 4th Session commenced in June 2014 ending in May 2015. The term of the current Parliament will end at the end of the 5th Session in May 2016.
Political parties as well as the Electoral Commission have scheduled various activities leading up to the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for early next year.
Kadaga however said that civil society and political groups still have the opportunity to present their views to the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs which is now considering the Bill.
She also highlighted despite claims that the Constitutional (amendment) bill presented by government was shallow; the opposition MPs had not moved any Private Members bill to reflect their wide ranging proposals on electoral reforms.