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Police to first clear campaign venues – Electoral Commission

Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi updates guidelines to be followed by political aspirants ahead of campaigns and voting. Courtesy photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Electoral Commission (EC) has said in it’s guidelines issued today that a candidate must first get clearance from the police in order for him or her to hold a campaign meeting.

According to EC chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi, this is to ensure that guidelines issued by the ministry of health to combat the spread of the coronavirus are adhered to.

“Conveners of meetings should notify the police authority in the respective areas on the identified venues which shall be inspected for suitability in regard to compliance with the ministry of health guidelines,” said Byabakama.

When asked whether the police will not use this to deny candidates permission to hold campaign meetings, Byabakama said, this will not happen because during the time of elections, the Public Order Management Act which the police uses to regulate meetings doesn’t apply.

“When we talk about conveners to notify the police, it’s not to give permission but to see that the avenues conform to the guidelines because if you don’t do that, there is a lot of laxity and indiscipline on the part of some of the political players. That’s why we need the police to come in like they have always done even in normal campaigns. Otherwise we are not putting too much power in the hands of the police,”said Byabakama.

On the Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) who are also known for interfering with the work of the EC and deny candidates opportunity of talking to people especially in upcountry, Byabakama said they are going to talk to the minister of the presidency Esther Mbayo to reign on them.

“RDCs are not above the law, they are subject to the powers of the Commission. We are not denying the fact that they are the heads of security in their regions, that is given, however we must not misinterpret that to mean that you can interfere in a process that has been put in place to ensure that voters and candidates get to know each other,” added Byabakama.

Other guidelines

The EC today announced a raft of guidelines that will be followed throughout the electoral cycle starting with the nomination, campaigns and voting. The EC has provided for getting of nomination papers online on top of issuing hard copies to aspiring presidential candidates or their agents.

The guidelines say that both the election officials, aspiring candidates and agents, have the obligation to ensure compliance in the wearing of masks, washing of hands, use of sanitizers, and observation of social distancing during the issuance and receipt of nomination papers, during campaigns and on election day. The EC will provide hand washing facilities such as soap, sanitizers and water at all its points of operation.

During nominations, the aspiring candidate, appearing in person, shall be allowed into the nomination venue accompanied by only two persons, the seconder and proposer who shall be required to wear masks at all times. The EC adds that the aspirant shall only be allowed two vehicles for purposes of nominations and each vehicle should not carry more than four persons, driver inclusive. These vehicles shall all bear a police sticker authorizing them to access the venue. However, this rule will not apply to the president who will be allowed all vehicles that are normally part of his official fleet.

The EC has also banned motor vehicle and motorcycle convoys and crowds of supporters during the period designated for nominations. Other guidelines include, all meeting venues to be outdoor to enable the observance of the social distancing of at least two meters, candidates must ensure that they comply with the harmonized campaign meetings programmes. These campaign meetings must not go beyond 6.00 pm on each of the campaign days.

“All candidates are advised to desist from holding mass rallies, conducting processions from one meeting to another. Similarly, convoys and crowds of supporters shall not be allowed outside the designated meeting venues,” said Byabakama.

On the use of the media, all candidates shall conduct their engagements in accordance with the programs submitted to the respective district returning officers and harmonized by the respective media houses. Therefore, candidates are advised to submit to the returning officer a copy of their proposed campaign meetings and media campaign programmes. The EC however allowed candidates to use the Community Based Public Address Systems commonly known as bizindaalo and a program for their usage should be communicated by the candidates to the respective returning officers.

Elections for parliament and president are expected to take place on January 10, 2021 while nomination is to take place in October and November respectively.



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