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Religious leaders want number of people attending campaign meetings increased

Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Dr. Steven Kaziimba Mugalu

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  Religious leaders through their umbrella organization, the Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) have urged the Electoral Commission to increase the number of people allowed to attend a political meeting.

Speaking to reporters at the Electoral Commission headquarters at Jinja Road in Kampala, the religious leaders led by the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Dr. Steven Kaziimba Mugalu said that instead of a blanket restriction to only 200 people per campaign meeting, the number should be determined by the capacity of the venue. 

In this, Kaziimba said clashes between the security forces will be minimized. 

The men of faith expressed dismay over the killing of people last week following the arrest of National Unity Platform – NUP presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu after he was arrested for contravening COVID-19 restrictions on meetings. 

Pastor Joseph Sserwadda said it was disheartening to see that over 50 people were killed as result of trying to enforce COVID-19 restrictions. “In trying to stop people from dying from the Coronavirus, 50 people were killed. That’s confusing and we are very saddened by this. We call upon the police to refrain from such actions. We also call upon the politicians to be mindful of the lives of the people in order for them not to die of Covid-19,” said Sserwadda.   

The religious leaders also implored the Electoral Commission to procure media space for all presidential candidates so that they can reach out to their supporters without resorting only to in-person campaigns. This way, Kaziimba said, the election will be seen as free and fair as there will be a level playing field.

The religious leaders also called upon government agencies to leave all candidates to access the media without impediment. There have been cases of opposition candidates, Kyagulanyi and Patrick Amuriat Oboi, being denied media space especially at upcountry stations on the directives of the Resident District Commissioners. 

In response, the chairman of the Electoral Commission, Justice Simon Mugenyi Byabakama promised that he will have conversation with the relevant government agencies to see what to do with the proposals of the IRCU. 

The IRCU meeting came just hours after the Electoral Commission had written to the Inspector General of Police Martin Okoth Ochola over continued police interference in presidential candidates’ meetings.

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