In a story published in the Daily Monitor of May 21, former premier Amama Mbabazi is reported as having said, albeit diplomatically, that changing the Electoral Commission’s name may not be a solution. He reportedly added that the EC is mandated to hold free and fair elections and that it must be non-partisan as a constitutional role. Many of us agree with him on this point.
As of now, the nomenclature ‘Independent Electoral Commission’ is a misnomer intended to hoodwink the unsuspecting and the international observers, who usually okay elections that are alleged to have been rigged before taking the earliest flight out of the country to avoid the resulting melee, into thinking the EC is independent of extraneous political influence! As the government has insisted that the President’s powers in appointing the EC have to be maintained, the element of independence implicit in the name will effectively be demolished from the start if that kind of stance is maintained.
This is because the President is not only the leader of a political party with the vested interest of winning the [next] election, which a partisan EC can deliver on ‘a silver platter’, but is also the incumbent whose party has explicitly indicated he will be their flag-bearer in the forthcoming elections which the so-called ‘Independent Electoral Commission’ will organise.
Doesn’t the one who pays the piper usually also call the tune in Africa? The terminology reminds one of the often repeated mistake of saying ‘protocol observed’ which many public speakers make. How can anybody claim to have observed what they in fact haven’t observed? By the same token, to call the EC independent when technically and conceptually it isn’t, is misleading.
If I may digress a bit for purposes of clarity and perhaps a humble extension of knowledge on a little known subject, protocol is observed when good manners are exercised, common sense applied, and formal procedures for effective handling of society, especially as it relates to the varying status of individuals are observed. This involves addressing people by their correct titles, correct names and in the order of their relative importance or status. In fact, it is deemed discourteous and a ‘breach of protocol’ to mention the titles and names of some officials but not recognising by title and name the presence of eminent citizens such as cabinet ministers, a cardinal, judges of the Courts of Judicature, archbishops, bishops or muftis, literati, among others. If there are people you don’t know, why not say ‘distinguished guests’ or ‘ladies and gentlemen’ and add ‘of distinction’, if you like?
In the same vein, it is fallacious for an MC to invoke protocol when the correct sitting arrangement at an official function, dinner or cocktail has not been effected in accordance with the order of precedence based on official position or rank; when invited guests bring their uninvited spouses or companions to a working event; when simple rules of etiquette like: arriving on time, conforming to the dress code, waiting to be seated by the host(s), keeping voices low and not exhibiting disrespect by booing when the guest of honour is speaking, not jumping the queue on the buffet table, not drinking too much or too fast, not picking or openly blowing our noses or belching, lady guests not leaving their bags on the table, guests knowing which is the bread plate and water glass i.e. bread on the left, meal in the middle; water, coffee cup and saucer on the right; and of course, not leaving before the guest of honour, among others.
To return to the main theme, politicians need not be deceitful. As one veteran politician once said, even politics needs good people; indeed politics need not be a dirty game.
Mr Baligidde is a former Diplomat. firstname.lastname@example.org