The Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) on Friday last week (July 8th) resolved that the incumbent East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) representatives be retained in recognition of their exceptional performance in the fourth Assembly.
EALA which is the legislative organ of the East African Community (EAC) was established under Article 9 of the EAC treaty in 1999. The fourth Assembly elapses in December and re-election for the 5th assembly is due this September hence the preparation by the NRM on who will be representing Uganda at the regional parliament headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania.
Early this month, the NRM Electoral Commission Chairperson, Tanga Odoi announced that 129 aspirants picked out nomination forms to occupy six of the nine slots Uganda has. The NRM Electoral Commission boss attributed this spike in interest to the scrapping off of the nomination fees that had since been a hindrance to participation especially among the youth in the past.
“The youths used to complain they could not pay the shs2 million. We wanted to test the waters and if this is the right thing, we shall go with it,” said Mr. Odoi in an address to the media.
SecretsKnown uncovered that in 2017 before the nomination fee was waived off, only 43 candidates showed interest to represent Uganda at the East African Legislative Assembly on the ruling National Resistance Movement party card, a difference of 86 aspirants.
So, indeed the scrapping off of the nomination fee encouraged a lot of interested aspirants to pick up nomination forms, and among the 129 were first-time entrants mostly young people, losers from the 2021 elections, former leaders within the party, Resident District Commissioners (RDC’s) and deputies, journalists, artistes, presidential advisors and as well as all the candidates who were seeking re-election.
The bigger question behind all this however is, why did the NRM waive off the nomination fee and still go ahead to endorse the 6 incumbents to continue their tenure for another term despite the large numbers that showed interest? Could this ringfencing of certain positions in the party be an elusive statement to justify the notion of incumbency from the bottom to top? That remains for you to judge.
It is unfortunate for all the other aspirants who invested their time, finances, and lobbying efforts only to be rejected the opportunity in preference of the incumbents.
This decision has created an uproar and already 23 distressed NRM members in a letter to the party Secretary-General and the party Electoral Commission chairperson are disputing their elimination from the EALA race primaries accusing CEC of being unfair, undemocratic and unjust. They are now petitioning for an overturn of the CEC resolve to retain the six incumbent EALA MPs in favor of open competition.
The opposition political parties and independents who have only 3 slots are also already prepping for the electoral exercise that is to begin on September 17 in the race to the 5th regional legislative Assembly. The Democratic Party already elected their Secretary General, Dr Gerald Siranda, to replace their current representative and Vice-President Fred Mukasa Mbidde who is disallowed to contest again since the law states that an MP can serve for only two terms.
Forum for Democratic Change has also already nominated their flag bearer Harold Kaija, who is the party’s Deputy Secretary General in charge of administration and the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) elected Fred Ebil.
Analysis by Democracy in Africa, one of the leading data reviews on African politics cites that just like in Kenya, Uganda’s political parties in 2017 were rewarding rejects who had lost elections to EALA. What the opposition parties that have already fronted their candidates share in common is that these flag bearers both previously stood for electoral positions in previous elections and lost.
Surprisingly, the National Unity Platform (NUP), Uganda’s largest opposition party, hasn’t yet elected their flag bearer explaining that they are taking their time and are not in any rush to select a candidate for EALA. They also claim that the NRM has misrepresented the East African Community Treaty citing how the FDC despite being the biggest opposition party in the last 10 years has not had representation.
With the NRM being the dominant party in parliament, the 6 opposition parties in parliament are now left to scuffle it out for the remaining slots. Independent candidates who have also shown interest for EALA representation are already canvassing for support within Parliament for the remaining slots.
With the increasing concerns of commercialized politics in Uganda, parliament has not been spared of this vice. There are already emerging allegations that legislators are soliciting bribes and demanding for money from EALA aspirants. SecretsKnown will keep track of the race to the 5th regional legislative before the winners commence their term of office from 2022 to 2027.