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Electoral Commission warns candidates on violation of guidelines

EC chairman Justice Simon Byabakama.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Electoral Commission has warned candidates contesting for different positions to desist from holding processions and mass rallies contrary to the set measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

On November 9th, campaign meetings for presidential, parliamentary and local government council elections started across the country with candidates trying to woe voters ahead of the 14th January 2021 general election.

“The Commission warns all candidates contesting for various elective positions 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,” reads part of a press statement issued by EC chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama.

According to Byabakama, the Commission has observed with concern that some candidates, including presidential candidates are holding their campaigns in a manner that violates the guidelines for conduct of campaign meetings in a COVID-19 environment.

“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 9th November 2020, provides that gatherings for purposes of political meetings should not exceed two hundred (200) persons,” he says.

He also noted that a number of candidates are conducting processions along public roads, through towns and trading centres, and are also holding rallies in non-designated venues as per the harmonised campaign programme.

Byabakama says this is in violation of the commission’s guidelines that the campaigns should be conducted in observance of standard operating procedures- SOPs which include social distancing, hand washing, and wearing of masks.

The EC also cautions against making impromptu stopovers in trading centres which attracts public gatherings along busy highways saying that these spontaneous public addresses are also 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.

In regard to face masks, Byabakama says all candidates and their supporters should wear face masks during public meetings so that participants are not put at the risk of contracting COVID-19.

“This conduct is unacceptable considering that as at 10th November 2020, the cumulative COVID-19 infection cases in Uganda stood at 14,704 with 133 deaths so far registered in the country. The Commission wishes to emphasize that the health and safety of voters, their families, candidates, security personnel, the media and the general public should be of paramount consideration,” the EC chairman notes.

While campaigning in Makerere, Ssebina zone on Tuesday, presidential candidate Gen. Mugisha Muntu took the first minutes of his speech to address the public about the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I can see many of you not putting on masks. We need to be careful because prevention is better than cure. Follow the standard operating procedures, we need to get the happiness of change of government when you are all alive,” Muntu appealed.

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