As the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine set out to meet Electoral Commission officials to discuss excessive use of force by security agencies that have severally blocked him from accessing campaign venues and harassing his supporters, a parallel meeting between the Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) and Police on the same matter was also underway.
The Archbishop of Church of Uganda, Dr Samuel Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu, who doubles as co-chair Council of Presidents of the IRCU led the delegation of religious leaders.
Opposition presidential candidates Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu and his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) counterpart Patrick Amuriat Oboi have consistently been blocked by the security agencies from accessing campaign venues and their supporters dispersed with teargas and bullets.
The police always accused Bobi Wine and Amuriat of gathering crowds of supporters, something that was banned by the Electoral Commission to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
As a way of eliminating confrontation between presidential candidates and security agencies over failure by candidates to observe Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) put in place by the Electoral Commission and the Ministry of Health, the Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) represented by Archbishop Kaziimba on Thursday November 26, 2020, proposed to the Electoral Commission that a campaign venue should not be limited to only 200 people but rather host the number according to its capacity.
It should be noted that the Electoral Commission banned all mass campaign rallies and announced “scientific” campaign meetings where a campaign venue should accommodate not more 200 people.
“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,” said Kaziimba.
The proposal to have a campaign venue not limited to only 200 people but rather host the number of people according to its capacity, Kaziimba said, is among the ways through which fairness can be restored, minimize clashes and curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
He added that it will 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.
Since the commencement of election campaigns, there have been episodes that include among others; violation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and COVID-19 guidelines, constant use of teargas, the loss of lives and the general atmosphere of frustration and anxiety.
These developments, Kaziimba said, are impacting directly on the image of the Electoral Commission and confidence of the electorate in the electoral process.
“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,” Kaziimba argued.
He added: “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.”