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New EC commissioner asks critics to push for reforms

In a recent interview, HAJJI MUSTAPHA SSEBAGGALA KIGOZI, a newly-appointed electoral commissioner and executive director of the Uganda Manufacturers Association, UMA, advised the Electoral Commission's harshest critics to push for the desired electoral reforms instead of bashing the new commissioners.

For his seven-year term, he promises to bridge the widening confidence gap between the commission and Ugandans. Siraje Lubwama recorded the interview, below are excerpts.

How did you feel on getting news that President Museveni had appointed you to the Electoral Commission?

First of all, I felt good because it took me by surprise. To know that there is someone out there who has confidence in me is a sign that I’m performing well as a diligent citizen of Uganda.

Had you been tipped off before your appointment?

Two days before the official appointment was announced, somebody told me that someone was looking for me. And that he was talking good about me and was intimating that something good was likely to come my way.

Hajji Mustapha Ssebaggala Kigozi, the newly-appointed electoral commissioner and executive director of UMA

Opposition leaders are not comfortable with the new commission appointed before electoral reforms are in place.

The issue they are raising should have been raised yesterday, amending the Constitution plus the electoral reforms. As the Constitution is now, the president is mandated to appoint the chairperson, vice chairperson and other commissioners.

You are replacing Dr Badru Kiggundu’s team, which has been harshly criticized for being partisan, how will you address this criticism?

It is very difficult to say at this material time that ABC will be done by our team because we have not been given the instruments of power yet. Until we receive and appreciate them alongside the criticism,we cannot devise means of bridging the gaps.

The LC-I elections will surely test your resolve and competence since they come too soon (January) into your tenure.

The LC-I elections may not be held in January. This period looks too short unless, as I assume, the previous electoral team made some arrangements that would smoothen our job.

Don’t forget there are election appeals still before the Court of Appeal and once the appellant court orders a by-election, the law provides for not more than 60 days to hold one. But if we find the technical team has the knowhow, we shall do the needful of making people line up in LC-I elections since it has happened before.

There are suggestions that each LC-I contestant pays some little registration fee to co-fund the cheapest election materials like ballot papers.

Much as co-funding would be appreciated, it can compromise the exercise. What if someone can’t afford the contribution but wants to compete? It is preferable that government funds the entire exercise.

Co-funding would look like the government is incapable of funding this exercise fully. Though, I agree that voters lining behind candidates is not very good.

Makindye division has a unique problem. The deputy resident city commissioners, RCCs, subdivided the zones and appointed their LC-I officials. Court nullified this but the nullified zones still exist.

As soon as we are in office, we are going to study the whole situation right from the grassroots and we shall be in position to tell what should be done.

After the presidential and parliamentary elections last February, a big number of voters skipped the subsequent local council elections. Don’t you think voters will avoid lining up behind candidates?

Our task will, among other things, include sensitizing citizens on the importance of voting and building confidence in elections. Being administrators, we are aware of what we need to do. We shall encourage people to elect their local leaders.

Do you have time to do that in such a short time?

Yes, why not, we only need a short orientation. Even our predecessors were not trained electoral commissioners. We are going to look at their records, identify the gaps, do a SWOT [strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis] and look at their achievements if any and come up with a way forward.

On the issue of losing confidence, that depends on what people call losing confidence. Winners jubilate and the loser is expected at times to lose confidence. It is rare for a winner to say I was cheated.

Opposition politicians allege that President Museveni appointed mostly his own NRM people to the Electoral Commission or those who will follow his instructions to the letter. Where do you fall?

Do you think the president has checked the inner political ideological [position] of every commissioner he has appointed?

I, Ssebaggala, was DP at one time, but when I decided to leave active politics, I also decided to do away with politics in general but I independently continued to vote for people I considered worthy of voting for. How do you know where one belongs when he is not in active politics? Does one look green or yellow? This is not something very easy to tell.

How did you find the parliamentary vetting committee?

They asked me about my profile and what I have done before, which I ably explained. They asked me if I knew there was a law on elections and the objectives of the Electoral Commission, which I also explained perfectly because I had studied about it way back.

What is your advice to people who continue to lose interest in voting and politics?

I would advise people to continue having political interests. You may not be a politician but you can’t say you are not interested in elections.

I wouldn’t advise anybody to say I am politically off. You may not be a politician but you should always vote people you think can ably represent your interests. If people shun voting, it will be bad for this society because misfits will take up good positions. Also avoid being bribed.

Who is Ssebaggala?

I was born in 1963 in Mpigi district to Abbas Bamulanzeki. I went to various institutions such as Kibuli SS, Makerere University for my first degree, IUIU and went back to Makerere University again.

I hold a master’s degree in Public Administration and another one in education management on top of my bachelor’s and diploma in education. I am married with children currently staying in Lukuli parish in Makindye division. I have been the executive director of UMA [Uganda Manufacturers Association] since 2010.



0 #1 ainembabazi 2017-01-06 18:34
Like the Kiggundus before him, this gentleman will say all sorts of things.

When shove comes to push, I for one will not surprised when he swears by the holy books of his choice, that his master won fairly and squarely. Just watch this space.
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0 #2 Siida robert 2017-01-06 20:33
We need an independent electoral commission for all the people not just for president Museveni who is always a full time presidential candidate .

We must implement the electoral reforms first as it in the citizens' compact before we can get a non partisan commission.we hve no hope in those who hve been appointed , the will serve thier master, his deeds are known!
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