There is a new wind sweeping across the political line, specifically in the line of the Members of Parliament. Since February 18th 2016, the courts have been busy handling petitions, of course courtesy of the Principal Judge’s directive to have these handled in the nearest 6 months. Several individuals took it to court to challenge their counterparts for various reasons ranging from the common voter bribery to the now white elephant-lack of the requisite academic qualifications. Many have fallen short of this and of the more than 15 MPs thrown out of Parliament by court, over 95% are guilty of lack of requisite academic qualifications. Article 80 of the our Constitution stipulates clearly the qualifications for a member of parliament in Uganda which among others include, that one must be a citizen of Uganda, registered voter and has completed a minimum Advanced level standard of education or its equivalent. These are the overbearing requisite requirements and unfortunately, the last requirement has heavily been violated
The rules of the game seem clear and simple but I don’t know whether the players understand them that way! Why would one, well knowing that they do not meet the standards above match majestically to pick nomination papers for the same? Have they already bought their way through out? It is disheartening to hear and read that some candidates have been masquerading to have attained the A level standard education and yet not. This goes to the root of things-character, it is only a selfish and cheating character that can boldly take such steps but thank Heavens, there is always a gate man waiting to judge the “righteous” before they take on the throne of Parliament. We have also heard stories of other candidates using their friends’ and relatives academic papers to meet the above qualification. One wonders what caliber of leaders there are. If one hoped that one day they would become a leader, why then didn’t they use every opportune time to go to school to at least attain the minimum standard required other than cheating their way to the very August house! This is very inexcusable and unforgivable of a leader!
Many have blamed the Electoral commission and UNEB for failing to detect these anomalies relating to academic rubric. The electoral commission in several attempts has responded that theirs is not to verify and inquire further about ones’ academic certification but rather receive documents that match the required standard. Then one would wonder what vetting and nomination mean at this level. What happened to the “petitioner” at the nomination level? Were they aware of the fake academic papers at this level? Why didn’t they raise it then? Again, this says a lot about character! Had this been discovered at an earlier stage, we would not be congesting courts in a bid to resolving the same. This therefore means that every individual who was participating in the electoral process had a key role to play and that whoever had an issue had the opportunity to raise it at that time to save us from the many costs to run bye elections.
In light of the above, there has been a proposal to increase the current education level standard from Advanced level to a Bachelors’ Degree for all MP aspirants in order to curb the increasing MP throw outs due to lack of academic documents. I am still wondering how this will resolve this issue! Increasing the education level to Degree will not deal with the individual character! The individuals who forge A level certificates will definitely forge the degrees just to contest and find their way to Parliament. Another line of thought is that by increasing this to degree level, one is actually closing the door for many upcoming leaders who have not had the opportunity to attain Advanced certificate of learning, but society must have rules in order to tame man and setting a minimum standard is good practice only that man continues to violate the set rubric. This now points to one thing; dealing with the character-the root cause of all these problems. It is the character that cheats, bribes voters, forges academic documents, beats supporters among others and as such, emphasis should be on dealing with the character.
The best way to deal with such characters is to introduce stringent deterrent measures- any person found guilty of an electoral offence should be banned from contesting again! This way, sanity shall be restored otherwise with the current system; we shall be recycling weeds in the garden.
By Michael Aboneka Jr