The Archbishop of Church of Uganda, the Most Rev Dr Stephen Kazimba Mugalu has called on security agencies to enforce COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) equally at the campaign rallies of all presidential candidates.
Kazimba made the call while delivering his new year’s message on Thursday.
“As you implement COVID-19 SOPs at all candidates’ campaign events, we call on you to enforce them equally. We expect transparent accountability for those unprofessional members of the security forces who do not abide by our agreements of non violence or who do not maintain the code of ethics you have been trained to uphold. Make sure they are arrested and charged with violating the law,” he said.
Since the commencement of election campaigns, opposition presidential candidates, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine of National Unity Platform (NUP) and his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) counterpart Patrick Amuriat Oboi have, with their supporters, consistently been engaged in running battles with security agencies over failure to observe COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, the Electoral Commission banned all mass campaign rallies and announced “scientific” elections in which rallies must have not more than 200 people.
However, Kyagulanyi and Amuriat have held mass rallies, something that police has insisted is unlawful.
Both opposition candidates have accused the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni of being behind police and other security agencies’ actions of blocking opposition political campaigns.
Although Museveni has not held huge campaign rallies, some of his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party members have held mass rallies without any police interference.
Kazimba urged security organs to treat Ugandans respectfully, regardless of their political affiliation.
“They are made in the image of God and do not deserve to be treated violently. One day, you will stand before God and give an account of how you treated your fellow Ugandans. Do you fear God? Please do your job as if you fear God,” Kazimba said.
Meanwhile, the Archbishop called on the Electoral Commission to “meet immediately” with all leaders from all political parties to agree on away forward for campaign events to be reinstated in the districts and cities with high number of COVID-19 cases.
Last week on Saturday, the Electoral Commission chairman Justice Simon Byabakama announced suspension of campaigns in 12 districts termed as COVID-19 hotspots.
These include; Kampala, Wakiso Masaka Kasese, Mbarara, Kabalore, Jinja, Tororo, Mukono among others.
The development, Byabakama said, was reached after the meeting with the Ministry of Health and was taken in order to contain the surge in number of COVID-19 cases in those districts.
Kazimba said that religious leaders are available to help mediate a diplomatic solution to ensure equal opportunity for all candidates to be able to campaign in a way that “advances life in its fullness. ”
“This is an urgent matter and we call on the Electoral Commission to organize such a meeting by the end of this week. We expect a solution that will be mutually acceptable to all candidates and public health officials,” he said.
Kazimba challenged political candidates to organize their final two weeks of campaigning in a way that reduces crowds.
“COVID-19 is real. What good will it do you if you register the largest crowd, but your supporters are too sick from COVID-19 to vote? What good will it do you if you win the election but your supporters die from COVID-19? We appeal to all candidates to show us your leadership skills now and organise your final two weeks of campaigning in a way that promotes life in its fullness,” he said.
Uganda will go to the polls on January 14, 2021 to elect the next President and Members of Parliament.