The Electoral Commission (EC) has disallowed political rallies during the 2020/21 Uganda electoral process to prevent further spread of Coronavirus in Uganda.
Speaking Tuesday at the launch of the revised roadmap for the polls, EC chairman Justice Simon Byabakama observed: “Mass rallies will not be allowed but campaigns will be conducted mainly through media.”
Byabakama said the Commission will issue specific guidelines for each electoral activity under this revised Roadmap in due course and will engage with various stakeholders on the same.
“This includes detailed information on specific requirements for nomination as a candidate, access to nomination forms, nomination fees and venues and conduct of campaigns and polling process,” he said.
Byabakama said the Commission is aware that most media houses are privately owned.
“There is need to engage media houses through the Ministry of Information so that all candidates are given an opportunity to engage the public,” said Byabakama.
He said “EC can’t be ordering media houses on what to do. But we will engage relevant bodies so that this mode of campaigning is actualized.”
Asked whether EC would facilitate candidates to appear on radio stations, Byabakama said the law doesn’t provide for the Commission to provide such resources to the political players.
He said a discussion is underway on whether to use outdoor communication systems known as ‘Bizindaaro’ in rural areas to sensitise masses on the electoral process.
The EC Secretary Sam Rwakoojo said the Commission has asked for a supplementary budget of Shs 54bn.
“We think that to provide for all the essentials, to make sure people go for campaigns and come to vote; their temperature is taken and hands are washed so they are clean, there was a provision of Shs 54bn,” said Rwakoojo.
“It’s to take care of those requirements. We are beginning discussions with Finance Ministry on this matter.”
Byabakama said the Commission in consultation with the Ministry of Health considered and adopted Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to facilitate safe participation by all stakeholders in the electoral process.
“These emphasise safe practices, which have been customised to elections and electoral process include; practicing social distancing;
wearing face masks in public; and regular washing of hands.
The Revised Roadmap highlights the dates for commencement of various key electoral activities, namely, nominations, campaigns and polling for various elective positions, that is, Presidential, General Parliamentary and Local Government Councils.
The Roadmap also indicates the period for conduct of elections for Special Interest Groups (Persons with Disability, Older Persons and Youth) Committees from Village to National Levels.
Asked why the elections were not postponed, Byabakama said the “Constitution commands us to hold elections within a specific timeframe. In those circumstances we must devise means amid challenges at hand to comply with constitutional requirements.”
The Commission urged all stakeholders in the electoral process to take note of the various activities that will be conducted under the Roadmap, and especially the respective timelines, so that they participate accordingly.
“More appeal goes to media owners to avail opportunities to all the candidates for fair coverage,” said Byabakama.
“The Commission advises political parties and aspiring independent candidates to ensure safe practices during primaries and other preparatory activities. Candidates, their agents and supporters are urged to strictly follow the guidelines on public meetings as issued by the Ministry of Health.”