By Frank Kamuntu
Kampala: Members of Parliament have criticised Electoral Commission over its incompetence which they say has a critical bearing on the riots that ensued on Wednesday following the arrest of the presidential aspirant and also Kyadondo East County MP, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.
MPs say there is a clash between guidelines issued by the Electoral Commission (EC) and the Ministry of Health, and those of the Uganda Police force that they are enforcing.
“There are grave concerns on how things are being managed, it seems there is no central management of the electoral process; Police is doing its own things, Ministry of Health is doing their own things, candidates are doing their own things and the Electoral Commission is sleeping,” said Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who chaired the plenary sitting on Thursday, 19 November 2020.
Kadaga said the chaos witnessed so far is a reflection that the EC has not done enough civic education. “I read that two candidates collided in one district, and other two candidates collided in another district. How can two candidates be in the same district on the same day?” asked Kadaga.
She also asked the various state agencies and security operatives to operate within the legal regimes that establish them and to exercise restraint while enforcing the Covid-19 guidelines.
Kasilo County MP, Elijah Okupa said the Police has been seen intercepting candidates who are not in gatherings and giving no legal reasons for their actions.
He added that if Police plans to use gatherings to arrest candidates, many will be arrested and violence will be heightened. “Now if you do not have a heavy escort, you cannot go to the village because the people will swam you and yet you cannot stop them from advancing towards you? If it continues that way, many candidates will be arrested,” said Okupa.
MPs say the government has failed to lead by example in as far as social distancing is concerned and as a result, it is hard to limit people in gatherings.
Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa cited recent scenarios where he attended funerals of famous Ugandans with thousands of people and top government leaders in attendance.
“It seems Covid is being transmitted through political meetings. We attended the burial of the former Mayor for Kampala Nasser Ntege Ssebagala and we were in the thousands. The event was manned by security agencies but when it comes to political meetings, then there is a problem,” said Basalirwa.
Basalirwa who is also Kyagulanyi’s lawyer told Parliament that the security operatives detaining his client have denied him access to medical and legal services and even meals. He added that the Masaka Municipality MP, Mathias Mpuuga is being detained but has been denied access to his lawyer.
Legislators expressed the urgency for harmonisation of the electoral guidelines suggesting that candidates, the Police and Electoral Commission must be in agreement of how to proceed with the campaigns.