Byabakama said that when then party president, Moses Kibalama Nkonge wrote to them last year, changing the National Unity Reconciliation and Development Party (NURDP) to National Unity Platform (NUP), they had no reason to suspect he didn’t have the authorization of the party members.
Byabakama's explanation follows a letter written to the commission by members of NURDP querying the manner in which the name and the leadership of their party had changed. The members questioned the entire extraordinary delegates conference allegedly held on July 14, 2020, and attended by only 51 unverified members out of a delegates member list of 400 delegates.
The meeting allegedly rubberstamped Kyagulanyi as the new party president and his associates as party office bearers without conducting a proper election. But this, the petitioners said, was in violation of the party's constitution and provisions in the national constitution on internal democracy of political parties.
Byabakama confirmed receiving the letter and said that the EC legal department is studying it to see whether they have any remedies and if not they advise the authors to seek court redress.
"For us when we sanctioned the change of the name, we did not have any information that these people who had proposed change of name had not been authorised to do so. We did not have that on authority. We did not have that information that they are not authorised, they are not allowed to request for change of a name. That information came much later after the name had been changed," said Byabakama.
On the contested red colour between NUP and the Uganda People's Congress (UPC), Byabakama said the red colour is synonymous with the UPC and therefore, NUP is using it illegally.
A quarrel broke out last week between the UPC faction led by MP Jimmy Akena and NUP over the use of red. UPC maintains that although it registered two other colours; blue and black, red is their dominant colour and People Power and its foster child NUP must stay away from it.
Byabakama told the press that according to their documents, NUP has registered a white umbrella with a blue background as their colours. Therefore, for them to seek to change them, the law requires that they first write to the Electoral Commission and then wait for the same to be gazetted for the change to become effective.
But although they wrote, Byabakama says that the change could not be effected because red had already been gazetted for UPC.
"UPC which has been in existence for as long as we can remember. Its dominant colour is red. NUP applied to change its colour, the colour of its symbol - whatever it is with red and blue against a white background. In other words with red as a dominant colour. It is within the law, I think, Section 11 of the Organisations and Political Parties Act. We notified them that there were challenges about their application because that colour they were proposing is already the preserve of another party, UPC. UPC have already booked that colour. We informed them, the law is very clear; 'the change you're proposing as a party only becomes effective after the Electoral Commission has gazetted that change.' said Byabakama.
However, Joel Ssenyonyi, the spokesperson of NUP, said red is one of their colours alongside, navy blue and white and advises UPC to seek legal redress if they feel aggrieved.
“The Electoral Commission is the superintendent of political parties. 16 years ago, these people went and registered this political party with the EC and had all those colours approved. No one can turn around and say you can’t use this colour. Why didn’t the alarm get raised then? So if anybody thinks we are breaking any rules, let them go to court,” Sseyonyi said.
According to Section 8(a) of the Political Party and other Organizations Act, a political party or organization shall not submit to the Electoral Commission for registration, any identifying symbol, slogan, colour or name which is the same as or similar to the symbol slogan, colour or initial of any registered political party or organization.
On the other hand, section 11 of the same Act states that whereas a political party or organization intends to change or alter its identifying symbol, colour or name, the political party or organization shall notify the Electoral Commission of its intention. Section 11(2) adds that the Electoral Commission in the case of change shall within 21 days after receipt of the notification cause to be published in the Gazette a notice of the intended change or the alteration, which can only come into effect upon approval.
According to records available at the Electoral Commission, NUP changed names in 2019 and the leadership last month. Bobi Wine was elected unopposed as the president, David Lewis Rubongoya as secretary general, deputized by Aisha Kabanda, Flavia Kalule Nabagabe as secretary for Women, Joel Ssenyonyi as the publicity secretary and Fred Nyanzi as the secretary for mobilization.