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2021 elections: Gov’t declines to declare state of emergency

Hon. Kamuntu says that the country can hold elections without necessarily declaring a State of Emergency, he cites Article 110 of the Constitution on the same.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Government has taken a decision not to declare a state of emergency in the country which would lead to the postponement of the 2021 general elections. The Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ministers, Ephraim Kamuntu disclosed this while appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

He was accompanied by the Attorney General, William Byaruhanga and Electoral Commission (EC) officials to explain the revised election road map for the 2021 polls because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The revised road map by the EC chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi banned open-air campaigns and advised all political contenders to utilise digital platforms to reach their electorate.

The decision has since drawn criticism from the public with some political leaders calling on government to declare a state of emergency and postpone the polls until when public campaigns can be held. A state of emergency is where government suspends normal constitutional procedures to regain control.  It is usually declared during national disasters, war and civil unrest, a pandemic or epidemic among other risks.

But even before EC issued the revised election road map, the Speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga and former Chief Justice Bart Katureebe had advised President Yoweri Museveni in April to declare a state of emergency.  However, cabinet advised the president against declaring a state of emergency.

Now on Wednesday, Kamuntu explained why government declined to declare the state of emergency. “Article 110 of the Constitution which relates to a state of emergency refers to external aggression and there is no external aggression against Uganda, it refers to internal insurgency and there is no insurgency in the country, it refers to a situation where there is virtually total breakdown. If there was a state of emergency even this parliament would not be sitting,” Kamuntu explained to the legislators.

Kamuntu argued that periodic elections are now part of Uganda’s historical mission for sustainable peace, security and stability. He explained that Ugandans expect to have a chance to choose their leaders every 5 years through elections, adding that this can only be achieved if Electoral Commission executes its mandate.

Kamuntu told the committee that Electoral Commission has engaged health experts in the Health Ministry on how the elections can be held during the Covid-19 pandemic in line with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) set by government.

Although the Minister acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected lives, he noted that the experience that country has already gained is that the disease can be managed without declaring a State of Emergency.

The Attorney General, William Byaruhanga, said it is their intention to have honest discussions on the electoral process for the good governance of the country.

However, the Masaka Municipality MP, Mathias Mpuuga said elections are not just rituals since Ugandans have more expectations.

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