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EC asks court to dismiss Kabuleta’s application challenging virtual campaigns

Pastor Joseph Kabuleta addressing journalists at High Court in Kampala. Courtesy photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Electoral Commission has asked High Court to dismiss an application filed by Joseph Kabuleta seeking to block digital elections citing abuse of court process. Last month, EC released a revised roadmap for the 2021 general elections in which it introduced virtual campaigns as opposed to mass political rallies.

The EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama said the decision was meant to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. This prompted Kabuleta, who has declared his intentions to contest for presidency to write to the Commission giving them two days to conduct a meeting with key stakeholders like political parties regarding the most appropriate ways of conducting elections during the pandemic.

However, the Commission didn’t heed to his request. As a result, Kabuleta petitioned court to quash the revised roadmap through his lawyers led by Daniel Walyemera. Kabuleta argued that EC is trying to prevent the public from participating in free and fair elections by unjustifiably restricting freedom of speech and imposing unconstitutional limitations on the public.

He also argued that the said guidelines are illegal and contravene several electoral laws in the country such as the Parliamentary, Presidential and Electoral Commission Acts, which provide for open rallies. However, on Monday afternoon, EC lawyers led by Ntambirweki Kandeebe told Justice Esta Nambayo that the application was wrongly filed before High Court.

They argued that the applicant didn’t exhaust the existing remedies provided for under the law. They presented an affidavit sworn by the Electoral Commission secretary Sam Rwakoojo who contends that Kabuleta should have first gone to their seven-member committee, raised his grievances and only run to court after failing to get justice.

According to Rwakoojo, the Commission is mindful of the health of all citizens amidst the prevailing pandemic and as such, they made consultations and got expert guidance from the Health Ministry to conduct virtual campaigns so as to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Commission also told High Court Judge that its revised road map is reasonable in the circumstances and is not intended to interfere with freedom and independence of aspiring candidates as Kabuleta alleges. They further state that the allegations by Kabuleta that citizens of Uganda have no proper access to media, television and internet are false.

“I know that there are regulatory agencies in Uganda made to monitor and license the media and promote access to public media. I know that access to mass media is a continuous growth process that keeps changing with advancement of technology all the time”, said Rwakoojo.

Kandeebe says they want court to dismiss the application.

Justice Nambayo has fixed August 14 2020 to deliver her decision on the matter.



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