Uganda’s government in catch-22 over lapsed mandate of local council leaders

Mandate of elected Local Council Leaders in Uganda has elapsed with no date in sight for fresh elections to be conducted. This has created a crisis that leaves 70,626 villages and 10,595 Parishes countrywide, without legitimate political leadership. The tenure of office expired on July 10, 2023.

The Electoral Commission failed to conduct elections for the local councils citing lack of funds to conduct the exercise countrywide. The commission’s budget for the elections is UGX 56 billion (US$ 15.4million), and Government is claiming that they do not have the funds.

The implication of this is that there is now a lacuna in leadership at village/cell/ward and Parish levels. The local councils whose mandate lapsed were responsible among other things approve the processing of myriad official documents including for issuance of passports, national identity cards, court documents, bank loans, movement of livestock, land sale transactions and dispute resolution.

Civil society leaders and other sections of the citizenry have criticized the developed as a failure to plan and a lack of Government commitment to local council elections. As a consequence, the Minister of Local Government, Raphael Magezi announced that Government is extending the tenure of office of local councils beyond the mandatory five years.

However, lawyers working in and out of government have unequivocally advised that a lapsed tenure can only be extended during periods of war which is not the case this time. It means that rather than a fresh election, there is no other legally binding means that can assist political office bearers, who are not duly elected to continue serving.

The thought of avoiding elections as the Minister of Local Government is proposing, undermines democracy and violates the rule of law. The Ugandan law provides that leaders assume local council offices through elections rather than through appointments.

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