By Spy Uganda
Kampala: The Electoral Commission (EC) through its lawyers has asked High Court judge Musa Ssekaana to dismiss Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago’s suit challenging a ban on campaigns in the 12 districts that were earmarked by the ministry of health as hotspots for spreading the deadly COVID-19.
On Monday (December 28, 2021), Lukwago petitioned the court seeking to have the ban on campaigns in the city quashed. Lukwago argues that the guidelines are not only illegal but also unconstitutional.
However, In their submission, Eric Sabiiti and Ahmed Lugoloobi said Lukwago’s application lacks merit and should be dismissed with costs
“My lord, it is our submission that this application is incompetent because it is a disguised judicial review application and should be dismissed with costs,” reads part of the submission.
The lawyers noted that EC chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama has the mandate to issue directives pertaining to the conduct of the elections depending on the prevailing circumstances in the country.
“We decided to ban campaigns in Kampala and several districts because of non-compliance with the COIVID-19 standard operating procedures,” Sabiiti added.
However, In his application, Lukwago argued that the decision to indefinitely suspend campaigns was illegal, irrational, and ultra vires and it constitutes an egregious affront of the right to associate, assemble and interface with the electorate and the entire citizenry which is the cornerstone of a free and fair election.
“The Electoral Commission’s decision isn’t backed by any law and whereas we appreciate that Covid-19 is here, the SOPs issued by the Ministry of Health can be adhered to so that the candidates aren’t deprived of their right to disseminate political agenda which constitutes an essential element of the social contract between them and the electorate,” Lukwago noted.
“It is the EC which issued the electoral roadmap in the middle of the pandemic and it cannot deviate from the same, The health ministry amended its statutory instrument and allowed gathering of not more than 200 people. So, where does Justice Byabakama get powers to revoke the statutory instrument issued by the health ministry,” Lukwago wondered
Lukwago noted that Justice Byabakama had no mandate to issue the impugned directives since the President, Parliament and Cabinet did not find it necessary to declare a state of emergency in the country.
The judge yet to deliver his ruling on the matter slated for January 6, 2021
“You cannot purport to say that you have suspended the campaigns because of the pandemic, yet business is going on as usual and the city is full to capacity. Places of worship are open then why don’t you allow people to campaign? Is COVID-19 only restricted to political activities and it is the only thing that spreads COVID-19?” Lukwago said.
Lukwago further added that if there was a need to control freedom of assembly on account of the prevailing situation, the Government should have declared a state of emergency in the country as provided for under Article 110 of the Constitution.
On 26 December 2020, Electoral Commission suspended campaign meetings in Kampala and 10 other districts and cities in the country due to the escalating Covid-19 infections and continuous violation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by some political candidates.