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Processions, Mass Gatherings Remain Banned – EC Tells Political Candidates

The Electoral Commission has warned candidates aspiring for various political offices including presidential and parliamentary, against holding processions and mass campaign rallies.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Electoral Commission Chairman Justice Simon Byabakama said holding processions and mass campaign rallies is a contravention of the guidelines for conduct of campaigns.

“The Commission has noted with concern that some candidates including presidential candidates are holding their campaigns in a manner that violates the guidelines for conduct of campaign meetings,” he said.

Despite the ban on mass rallies in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, some candidates have defied the guidelines and mobilized supporters to gather at campaign venues in larger numbers.

In some instances, police has used teargas to disperse supporters of presidential candidates Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu of National Unity Platform (NUP) Patrick Amuriat Oboi of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde who is Independent are currently on the campaign trail.

The Commission had initially instructed candidates to hold rallies of not more than 70 people, but the Ministry of Health recently relaxed this limit to 200.

“Some candidates are conducting processions along public roads, towns and trading centres and are also holding rallies in non-designate venues as per the harmonized campaign program. This is a violation of the Commission’s guidelines that the campaigns should be conducted in observance of Standard Operating Procedures (social distancing, hand washing and wearing of masks) and in designated places,” said Byabakama.

Byabakama also noted that some candidates are making impromptu stopovers in trading centres, attracting and addressing public gatherings along busy highways from their car rooftops, adding that both candidates and supporters are not wearing face masks.

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“This conduct is unacceptable considering that as at 10th November 2020, the cumulative COVID-19 infection cases in Uganda stood at 14,704 with 133 deaths so far registered in the country.”

“The Commission reiterates that processions and public/ mass rallies remain banned in accordance with the measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Commission warns all candidates contesting for various elective positions under general elections 2021, and all other stakeholders in the electoral process to conduct themselves in accordance with the guidelines for campaigns and strictly observe the measures issues by the Commission,” said Byabakama.

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