As a way of eliminating confrontation between presidential candidates and security agencies over failure by candidates to observe guidelines put in place by the Electoral Commission and the Ministry of Health to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) has called on the Electoral Commission and Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to secure airtime on all media houses for all presidential candidates.
The Archbishop of Church of Uganda, Dr Samuel Stephen Kazimba Mugalu who doubles as co-chair, Council of Presidents of the IRCU said this to the Electoral Commission officials led by Commission Chairman Justice Simon Byabakama in a meeting between IRCU Council of Presidents and the Electoral Commission on Thursday.
“The Council proposes that the Electoral Commission and the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) should secure airtime on all media houses. This airtime should be allocated equally to all political candidates for the remainder of the campaign period. This can be an option to open campaign rallies and meetings that have proved to be too costly and difficult to manage under the COVID-19 guidelines,” said Kaziimba.
It should be noted that the Electoral Commission banned all mass campaign rallies and announced “scientific” elections where campaigns would be conducted through the media in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
However, political contenders especially those on the opposition side have severally decried the high fares set by the media owners to run their campaign adverts.
On Wednesday, the UCC Head of Legal and Compliance Abdu Sallam Waiswa in a meeting between UCC and media stakeholders called on media owners to charge the lowest cost possible for candidates to communicate their message to the electorates.
Furthermore, Kaziimba proposed that “scientific” campaign rallies should not only be attended by 200 people but the number should rather be determined by the capacity of the venue.
“IRCU proposes that the capacity of the venue is what should determine the number of supporters that should be admitted. In this case, they will be required to hand wash, wear masks and observe social distancing. Obviously, this will require close collaboration between the security agencies and organizers of public rallies/ meetings. We trust that this will minimize clashes between campaign organizers and security agencies and unnecessary loss of lives,” he said.
Kazimba added that this would address the growing frustration among the electorate who he said are being denied the opportunity to rally around their candidates, and also the aspiring candidates who despite the agreed upon roadmap, have consistently been denied access to venues of their choice and some media stations.
“Your proactive intervention will make a great deal of difference. Following up incidents like the denial of candidates to access media houses and campaign venues and acts that cause disorientation and frustration on the presidential candidates would help build confidence and signify that you are truly in charge of the process. Continuous engagement with key stakeholders including security agencies, Ministry of Health and political candidates will also help ease the growing tempo and reduce tension in the electoral environment,” Kaziimba told EC.