The Inspector-General of Police Martin Okoth Ochola has warned all presidential candidates who have decided to defy Covid-19 guidelines while campaigning to get ready to suffer the consequences.
In the document dated 18th November, Ochola said, “Although the guidelines issued by the Electoral Commission are clear, we continue to witness candidates and their agents holding unauthorized rallies, processions and assemblies. Unlike 2016, this time is faced with a pandemic that can only be controlled if we adhere to Ministry of Health guidelines with regulated gatherings of not more than 200 people and the use of new media (online media), to help safeguard the health and safety of all Ugandans and visitors to the country.”
Ochola explained that although freedom of expression is there,Ugandans must know that there is a dangerous disease known as Covid-19 which knows no Freedom of Expression.
“While we understand the right to freedom of expression as a very important part of democracy, unauthorized assemblies are currently prohibited under the Electoral Commission and Ministry of Health guidelines. As a result, the safety and security of all candidates, their agents and the successful conduct of the political campaigns remains a top priority. Fortunately, all candidates are aware of these guidelines.”
He added,“During these first 9 days, we have repeatedly cautioned all individual actorsa nd political groups, against acts of civil disobedience like holding unauthorized and defiant campaigns, burning of tyres, use of illegal roadblocks, deflating tyres of police vehicles, intimidation, looting shops, dangerous driving on major roads and provocative behaviour towards law enforcement personnel.”
According to Ochola in an effort to maintain the integrity of the Electoral process, last week and this week,EC and law enforcement agencies reached out to all candidates and their campaign agents to discourage violence but it seems all the engagements reaped nothing.
“Therefore, those who shall defy these Electoral Commission guidelines with their sinister plans aimed at disrupting the Electoral process will definitely suffer consequences. We have, therefore, adopted a tougher approach to preserve the integrity of the electoral process. We have dispatched our specialist teams and quick reaction teams, to identify ring leaders (and principals) for apprehension in the face of crime. We have disseminated our comprehensive policing plan to all territorial commanders for them to implement without fear or favour,” he said.
As a way of combating the said violence, Ochola also noted that Electoral and Political Offences Department at CID headquarters, has obtained videos of the respective campaign trails, and started gathering evidence to press formal charges, on candidates, campaign agents and influencers who are caught on the wrong side of the law.
“Once again, we would like to inform and reassure all Ugandans that covid-19 is real. As we tighten our enforcement mechanisms, we urge all members of the public to be very vigilant and cautious during the political campaigns.”
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