The local Council I and II elections will after a decade-long wait be held late this month, about three weeks from now, Electoral Commission said yesterday.
The EC secretary, Mr Sam Rwakojo, said but the poll date is still dependent on the release of Shs 16 billion by Ministry of finance requested for the exercise.
The development comes in the wake of sharp differences of opinion between Finance ministry and Electoral Commission (EC) over whether the Shs 16 billion required to hold the ballot in the country’s 57, 842 villages and 7,431parishes has been requested for or not.
Whereas the EC, which is responsible for organising the elections, says they have requested for the Shs 16 billion, Finance ministry spokesperson Mr Jimmy Mugunga says they are waiting for the requisition to release the funds.
Mr Rwakoojo said under the new law, EC has already made the guidelines, a programme and every requirement for the elections but that until finances are released by finance ministry, they can’t do anything.
“We are having the guidelines, we have the programme and everything required in the LC1 and LC2 elections, we are set for it, the only thing delaying us now is the release of the Shs 16 billion to facilitate the exercise,” said Mr Rwakojo Feb 7.
But the ministry of finance spokesperson Mr Jimmy Muguga said they have not received the requisition from EC for the money and that they are still waiting ever since the president assented to the local government amendment bill last week.
“After president assented to the local government bill 2014, we expect them to make a fresh requisition with a budget, put their proposals forward and then we shall process it as soon as it comes,” said Mr Mugunga.
Mr Rwakojo said the EC has started preparing for the roadmap towards conducting the elections after President Museveni assented to the amendments in the Local Government Amendments Bill 2014.
Mr Rwakojo said the amendments are intended to facilitate the holding of election for administrative units across the country on a more effective manner and warned those who have already started campaigns to stop immediately until the road map is officially out.
“I know there are people campaigning in the villages but I want to warn that this is illegal and those involved risk being thrown out of the race,” said Mr Rwakojo.
EC made several amendments to the Local Government Elections Act. These include; sending a text voters’ register to political parties, instead of the photo and text register, as it is in the existing law.
The other amendment allows the EC to set up tribunals of five members at parish level to address electoral concerns instead of involving every voter at the village.
The Electoral Commission deputy spokesperson Mr Paul Bukenya, explained that they are considering sub-dividing the villages such that they can have a manageable number of people to stand behind a candidate of their choice rather than having all of them in one village, coming in one place to vote.
“We have the guidelines that are going to help us create a timeline for LC elections, voter education exercise, mobilisation of the voters to participate in the voting and how the money is going to be spent but of course this is dependent on when the finances will be released to us take place,” said Mr Bukenya.
Uganda has not conducted elections for LCI (village) and LCII (parish) for the last 15 years, the last one having been held in 2001 before the country shifted from the one-party Movement system to the multiparty system of governance.
Attempts to hold the elections in 2006 were thwarted following the Constitutional Court ruling on the petition by then opposition member of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Maj Rubaramira Ruranga (retired) who challenged the legality of the incumbent Local Councils following the country’s return to the multiparty political system.
However, due to financial constraints, the government has never held the elections although the Local Councils continued operating illegally to-date. Uganda has 7431 parishes and 57, 842 villages in 1403 sub-counties.
“I know our requisition for funds to manage LC1 and LC2 elections has been sent to ministry of finance and we are going to unveil the 2017 LC election roadmap before the end of this month,” said Mr Bukenya.
Mr Bukenya said under the new amendment signed by president Museveni the period of display of the voters’ roll under the EC Act, shall be at least two days and that there will be reduction is the campaigning period from seven days to one day.