Justice Simon Byabaka, chairman Electoral Commission ‘EC’ has asked security agencies implementing covid-19 guidelines to arrest any Presidential and parliamentary candidates that are defying covid-19 standard operating procedures by holding processions and staging massive public gatherings which could result into wide spread of deadly coronavirus in communities.
In a Press statement released by the commission on observations on the conduct of candidates during Campaigns for 2021 General Elections which commenced on Monday 9th November 2020, across the country, EC expressed concern that several candidates are not following their guidelines and SOPs.
“The Electoral Commission wishes to appreciate candidates who have organised and conducted public meetings in accordance with the Guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for conducting campaigns in a COVID-19 environment. The Commission has, however, noted with concern that some candidates, including Presidential candidates,are holding their campaigns in a manner that violates the Guidelines for Conduct of Campaign Meetings” the statement reads in parts.
EC noted that Some candidates are mobilizing their supporters to gather at campaign venues in large numbers. It is important to note that The Public Health (Control of COVID-19) (Amendment No.3) Rules, 2020,issued on 9thNovember 2020, provides thatgatherings for purposes of political meetings should not exceed two hundred (200)persons
They added that Some candidates are conducting processions along public roads,through towns and trading centres, and are also holding rallies in non-designated venuesas per the harmonised campaign programme. This is in violation of the Commission’s Guidelines that the campaigns should be conducted in observance of Standard Operating Procedures (social distancing, hand washing, and wearing of masks)and in designated places
Some candidates are making impromptu stopovers in trading centres, attracting and addressing public gatherings along busy highways from their car rooftops. These spontaneous public addresses are a violation of the Commission’s Guidelines which provides for conduct of campaign meetings only in the approved venues and in accordance with the harmonised campaign programme, which clearly indicates the dates, time and venues for such meetings
The Commission has also noted that some candidates and their supporters are not wearing face masks during public meetings, which puts all participants, including the candidates, at the risk of contracting COVID-19. This conduct is unacceptable considering that as at 10thNovember 2020, the cumulative COVID-19 infection cases in Uganda stood at 14,704 with 133 deaths so far registered in the country. The Commission reiterates that processions and public/mass rallies remain banned in accordance with the measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Commission warns all candidates contesting for various elective positions under the General Elections 2021, and all other stakeholders in the electoral process to conduct themselves in accordance with the Guidelines for the campaigns and strictly observe the measures issued by the Commission.
Non-compliance with the Guidelines issued for the campaign period will necessitate intervention by law enforcing agencies, among other measures. The Commission wishes to emphasise that the health and safety of voters, their families, candidates, security personnel, the media and the general public should be of paramount consideration.
Presidential Candidates Robert Kyagulanyi and Patrick Amuriat have insisted on carrying out processions and illegal rallies which has attracted clashes with enforcement agencies.