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Voters asked to shun candidates who engage in electoral violence

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The chairman of the Electoral Commission Justice Simon Byabakama has implored voters to shun any candidate who engages in electoral violence.

Speaking on Thursday at the Electoral Commission offices along Jinja road in Kampala, Byabakama said those who engage in violence discredit the work that individuals and organizations have done to ensure that Uganda changes leadership through only peaceful means.

His remarks come just days after the country witnessed ugly scenes of violence when the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement-NRM held primaries. Byabakama said the level of violence that played out in the NRM elections was very unfortunate, not necessary and that it has no room in a democratic process.

He added that violence is a serious drawback on the efforts of trying to ensure that leaders are chosen not through violent means but a peaceful democratic and transparent process.

When asked whether what happened during the NRM elections won’t be repeated in the general election, Byabakama said it’s hard to be optimistic because the actors are the same. He however appealed to all candidates and their supporters to use only peaceful means to resolve electoral conflicts.

Byabakama admitted that his Commission has not done enough work to sensitize people about the on-going electoral process. He said they have received several complaints from different stakeholders expressing their dissatisfaction about the matter. He however said that starting next week, they will embark on a national wide tour explaining the revised roadmap.

He said that the restrictions necessitated by the spread of the coronavirus have made their work quite cumbersome because it’s hard to hold normal voter education meetings.

Byabakama also maintained that the four officials who recently ended their employment at the Electoral Commission applied for early retirement but were not sacked.

Last week, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni said that the four officials who include Sam Rwakojo, the secretary to the commission, Jotham Taremwa the head of media department, Pontius Namugera, the director of information technology and Godfrey Wanyoto the head of procurement were sacked because they were corrupt. Museveni said that the four had corruptly refused to procure a biometric data verification system that would be used to identifying voters in the 2021 elections to stop multiple voting.

But Byabakama maintained that the four were not sacked.

Byabakama also addressed media reports that the four officials had gone away with millions of shillings which they had been borrowed from the staff Sacco. He said whereas it might be true that the four could have borrowed from the Sacco like many other members who save with it, he was confident that they will be able to pay back their dues.

The Commission will also next week begin nominating candidates for local government starting September 21 and end on October 1st. For LCV chairpersons, city mayors, nominations will take place at the district level while for sub-county, town council and municipal divisions, nominations will take place at county headquarters.

Parliamentary candidates will be nominated on October 12 and 13 while presidential candidates will be nominated on November 2nd and 3rd at Kololo independence ground. This is because the usual venue which is Namboole stadium is currently being used as treatment centre for COVID-19.

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