Deputy Attorney General Jackson Kafuuzi has responded to concerns that the Electoral Commission (EC) had declined to nominate candidates whose National Identification card names differ from what appears on their academic documents.
On September 15, Soroti Woman MP Angelline Asio Oseggee, complained on the floor of Parliament that the Justice Simon Mugyenyi Byabakama-led Commission’s decision was affecting many aspirants, especially females who had dropped their maiden names to adopt their husbands’.
Speaker Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga had tasked the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to prepare a response on the matter.
On September 23, Kafuuzi explained to members why the EC had decided to become tough on all aspirants who were yet to formalize name changes.
“What the Electoral Commission is saying is that they want to follow the law to avoid any legal challenges that may come both to the candidate or elected leader that may be affected and the Electoral Commission after nominations or General Elections,” he said.
The Deputy Attorney General explained that before March 26, 2015 when the Registration of Persons Act, 2015 commenced, aspirants for elective political positions who had changed names by reason of marriage would only require to present a sworn statutory declaration/an affidavit and a marriage certificate to the Electoral Commission and would be nominated.
However, he continued, adult persons who change their names completely would go through the deed poll which is a legal process of changing a person’s name provided for in section 36 of the Registration of Persons Act, 2015.
Section 36 of the Registration of Persons Act, 2015 (Change of name of an adult) provides
“36 (1) Any person, being over the age of eighteen years or a widower, widow, divorced person or a married person, who wishes to change his or her name, shall cause to be published in the Gazette a notice in the prescribed form of his or her intention to do so.
(2) Not less than seven days after the publication of the notice, the person intending to change his or her name may apply in the prescribed form to the registration officer of the registration center in which his or her birth is registered.
(3) The registration officer shall, upon being satisfied that the requirements of this section have been carried out and upon payment of the prescribed fee, amend the register accordingly and shall sign and date the amendment.”
Kafuuzi explained the two options available for aspirants who have changed their names.
“An aspiring candidate who presents documents with different or varying names for nomination and alleges that he or he has changed the name at some point for some reason after the 26th March 2015 when the Registration of Persons Act, 2015 came into force, must provide evidence that that person changed the name or names in accordance with the requirement of section 36 of the Act cited above,” the deputy attorney general told MPs.
“However, when an aspiring candidate has changed the name before 26th March 2015 through a statutory declaration/affidavit, the presentation of the sworn statutory declaration/affidavit shall be valid and considered for nominations by the Electoral Commission since by then, there was no mandatory requirement for an adult person to go through a deed poll to change the name.”
But MPs, including Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa, a lawyer by profession, reminded Kafuuzi courts have given different interpretations on the matter of name changes.
He advised the deputy attorney general and the EC to come up with a clear position on the matter.
There were also concerns that the EC’s rules had come late. Already, nominations for local government positions began on September 21 while those for parliamentary hopefuls are due next month.
In the end, Kadaga ordered Kafuuzi to meet with the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and come up with a harmonized position.