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UGANDA DECIDES 2021: Parliament warns EC over ‘unleveled’ battleground for all presidential candidates

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Members of Parliament have criticised the uncoordinated electoral process which they say has a critical bearing on the riots that ensued last Wednesday following the arrest of presidential aspirant and also Kyadondo County East MP, Robert Kyagulanyi.

Legislators are concerned that whereas the riots which have claimed lives and property are regrettable, the battle ground is not leveled for all presidential candidates, saying such riots may not be avoided in the near future.

MPs say there is a clash between guidelines issued by the EC and the Ministry of Health, and that some of the Uganda Police enforcements are unlawful.

“There are grave concerns on how things are being managed, it seems there is no central management of the electoral process; Police is doing its own things, Ministry of Health is doing their own things, candidates are doing their own things and the Electoral Commission is sleeping,” said Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who chaired the plenary sitting on Thursday, 19 November 2020.

Kadaga said the chaos witnessed so far is a reflection that the EC has not done enough civic education. “I read that two candidates collided in one district, and other two candidates collided in another district. How can two candidates be in the same district on the same day?” asked Kadaga.

The called upon presidential candidates, whose incarceration is believed to be the cause of the tense atmosphere in the country to reign in on their supporters to exercise restraint from indulging in destructive activities which, “would result into further loss of lives, property and livelihoods”.

She also asked the various state agencies and security operatives to operate within the legal regimes that establish them and to exercise restraint while enforcing the Covid-19 guidelines.

Kasilo County MP, Elijah Okupa said the Police has been seen intercepting candidates who are not in gatherings and giving no legal reasons for their actions.

He added said if Police plans to use gatherings to arrest candidates, many will be arrested and violence will be heightened. “Now if you do not have heavy escort, you cannot go to the village because the people will swam you and yet you cannot stop them from advancing towards you? If it continues that way, any candidates will be arrested,” said Okupa.

MPs say that government has failed to lead by example in as far as social distancing is concerned and as a result it is hard to limit people in gatherings.

Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa cited recent scenarios where he attended funerals of famous Ugandans with thousands of people and top government leaders in attendance.

“It seems Covid is being transmitted through political meetings. We attended the burial of the former Mayor for Kampala Nasser Ntege Ssebagala and we were in the thousands. The event was manned by security agencies but when it comes to political meetings, then there is a problem,” said Basalirwa.

Basalirwa who is also Kyagulanyi’s lawyer told Parliament that the security operatives detaining his client have denied him access to medical and legal services and even meals. He added that the Masaka Municipality MP, Mathias Mpuuga is being detained but has been denied access to his lawyer.

This, Kadaga said, was in violation of the basic rights of any suspects and demanded that all candidates and members who have been detained are granted their basic rights.

Hon. David Abala (NRM, Ngora County) said that Uganda should use the recently concluded presidential elections in the United States of America that saw the spike of Covid-19 infections, as a learning process and handle the forthcoming elections better while being cognisant of the pandemic.

“We have lost about 145 people and projection based on the prevailing situation is bad so we must come up with working solution for the imminent problem,” he added.

Legislators expressed the urgency for harmonisation of the electoral guidelines suggesting that candidates, the Police and Electoral Commission must be in agreement of how to proceed with the campaigns.

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