Kampala, January 15, 2024 – The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), a prominent opposition party in Uganda, has voiced strong criticism against the recent reappointment of Justice Simon Byabakama as the chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC). President Yoweri Museveni last week renewed the terms of Byabakama, his deputy Aisha Lubega, and five other commissioners for a seven-year term.
In addition to the reappointments, President Museveni appointed former National Resistance Movement (NRM) MPs, Robert Kasule and Anthony Okello, to the commission. During a press briefing on Monday, FDC’s publicity secretary, John Kikonyogo, expressed the party’s opposition to the latest EC designations, citing concerns about partisanship.
Kikonyogo asserted, “The FDC is concerned that the President has further entrenched partisanship in the country’s electoral process which has reduced the Electoral Commission to be an NRM outfit.” He argued that officials closely associated with the ruling party could compromise the integrity of the electoral process.
The appointment of Kasule and Okello, described as “renown” NRM cadres, raised suspicions within the FDC of an attempt by the incumbent regime to strengthen its influence over electoral affairs. Kikonyogo remarked, “We don’t expect justice to be dispensed” and called for an independent commission with citizens and stakeholders’ participation.
He added, “The Commission should be shortlisted on camera,” emphasizing the need for transparency in the selection process. FDC announced plans to actively participate in a protest against the current EC leadership.
The FDC’s criticism aligns with sentiments expressed by the National Unity Platform (NUP), where leader Robert Kyagulanyi raised concerns over the perceived attachment of EC officials to the ruling party. Kyagulanyi stated, “He [Museveni] has decided to appoint renowned NRM cadres to the Electoral Commission – a clear message to Ugandans that he has no intention of ever holding a free and fair election.” Both opposition parties join in expressing dissatisfaction with the commissioners’ appointments.