The opposition presidential candidates are organizing to jointly head to the Electoral Commission to protest the Commission’s decision to suspend election campaigns in 12 districts marked as COVID-19 hotspots.
The revelation was made by Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Norbert Mao on Sunday.
The Electoral Commission chairman Justice Simon Byabakama on Saturday announced the suspension of campaigns in the districts of Kampala, Wakiso, Masaka, Kasese, Mbarara, Kabarole, Kalungu, Jinja, Kazo, Tororo and Luweero.
Uganda is set for general elections on January 14, 2021.
The EC said it noted with concern the non-compliance by some of the candidates with the said guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures while conducting campaigns.
“Although several engagements have been made with the said candidates and/or their agents/representatives, there has been no improvement as far as compliance with the SOPs are concerned,” said EC chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama.
However, Mao said it’s time for the opposition parties to unite for a common cause.
“These are some of the areas where the opposition has to work together. Many people think the opposition should only work together to agree on joint candidates and so on. But all of us are now under attack,” said Mao.
“Just like we have confronted police brutality together, we must now confront this issue together. So, in the next two days, we will be jointly confronting the Electoral Commission and making clear our own objections,” he said.
However, Mao announced that DP will on Monday December 28, 2020 send party officials to the Electoral Commission to protest the development.
“We have protested to the Electoral Commission. Tomorrow (Monday), my official agents and other party leaders are going to the Electoral Commission to complain because we are challenging the legal basis of the pronouncement,” Mao said.
Mao who is a lawyer by profession noted that while the Electoral Commission based on the surge in COVID-19 cases in the affected districts to suspend election campaigns, it did not quote any regulation in Public Health Act, and therefore such a pronouncement should have been made by the Ministry of Health.
“When we learned that the Electoral Commission had decided to cancel political campaign meetings in a number of districts, we consulted the law. Our conviction is that such an announcement has got to come from the Ministry of Health. The Electoral Commission has not quoted a single law related to public health. They only quoted the Presidential Elections Act, the Parliamentary Elections Act and the Local Government Act yet they claim that they have been in consultation with the Ministry of Health.”
However, Byabakama said the decision to suspend the campaigns followed a meeting with the Ministry of Health experts on Wednesday, December 23, 2020, “where they expressed great concern over the manner political actors/candidates and their supporters were conducting themselves during campaigns, coupled with an upsurge in transmission of the virus and resultant deaths.”
Byabakama said “the Commission has deemed it necessary to suspend campaign meetings of all categories of elections for the 2020/2021 General Elections in specified districts/cities” guided by Section 12 (1) (h) of the Electoral Commission Act; Section 21 (1) and (2) of the Presidential Elections Act, 2005; Section 20(1) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005; and Section 172 of the Local Governments Act.
However, Mao said the decision by the Electoral Commission to suspend campaigns in the affected districts, is to sabotage the campaigns of “those who are fighting for change. We know that these (districts where campaigns are suspended) are the hot bets of democracy seeking forces.”
President Museveni was this Monday expected to hold a campaign meeting in Mukono.
Presidential press secretary Don Wanyama said the event has been cancelled in line with the EC’s directives and that the NRM candidate would speak to party leaders via radio.