Come January 2021, Ugandans will be deciding who will lead them in the next five years as per the 1995 constitution.
However, unlike the past elections, this general election has had a lot of up and downs since March this year, when the country was hit by the global pandemic Covid-19 that changed the traditional way of campaigns.
As a way of curbing the novel virus from spreading, the President and Ministry of Health came up with directives that barred among others mass gatherings.
In June this year, the Electoral Commission (EC) said mass rallies were not to be allowed during the 2021 general elections as a way of controlling the spread of Covid-19.
While unveiling the new 2021 general elections roadmap, EC chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama revealed that the issue of postponing elections did not occur to them, because it was not within their mandate to discuss.
“The Constitution commands us to hold elections within a specific time-frame. In those circumstances we must devise means amid challenges at hand to comply with constitutional requirements,” said Justice Byabakama.
He further also revealed that that no mass rallies will be allowed before the elections, and aspiring candidates will campaign using different media platforms.
“If you want to lead people and care about their well being, you should avoid acts that put their lives in danger. Don’t expose them to the virus. That’s why mass rallies should be avoided,” he said.
“Campaigns will be conducted mainly through media.”
The EC move, forced Bugiri Municipality legislator Asuman Basalirwa to threaten to sue the commission together with government over the issue. He wanted elections to be postponed on grounds that the EC directives were unconstitutional.
His plea was never taken into considerations and all electoral process have been going on despite the interventions by police and army to disrupt campaign meetings of members of the opposition.
Nevertheless, the atrocities that took place on 18th and 19th of November 2020, following the arrest of presidential candidates; Robert Kyagulanyi of National Unity Platform (NUP) and Patrick Amuriat Oboi of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) for violating the directives reawakened the calls to postpone the general elections. Over 50 people lost their lives in the #FreeBobiWine protests.
However, according to political players and election observers, it’s now too late for elections to be postponed instead the EC must just ensure that it conducts a free and fair elections.
Charity Ahimbisibwe, the National Coordinator for Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), said that it’s now too late for some people to come out and advocate for postponing elections.
“It’s too late because we are at the tail end of the process, we have only 43 days from today to cast the ballot, the constitution cannot even be changed within this short period of time we have. Even if we decide to postpone right now because of violence, we have to change the law. Because elections are under a law that every five years we vote, therefore the 43 days are not sufficient to cause an amendment since an amendment of the constitution needs a minimum of 3 months, so there is no chance of postponing these elections we have to go through with them,” she said.
Frank N. Rusa the Country Representative of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) also supports the stand that elections should go on but people involved in must be able to amicably agree and maintain peace for the good of Uganda.
“At this level where we have reached postponing elections is very expensive, I think what we must focus at now is how can we improve on fairness in the process because some people are going through unfair treatments. Currently, a lot of money has been spent, ballot papers have been printed. Putting aside that we must ask ourselves what else can we do now to make sure the process is improved, I don’t think we have reached a point of calling for postponing elections,” Rusa said.
However, the FDC’s Deputy Secretary-General Harold Kaija still wants the elections postponed alluding that more bloodshed is going to be seen since security agents are also fighting harder to see that the ruling government stays in power. Kaija says those refusing to postpone elections hiding in law need to know that laws are made to protect people not to lead them into death.
“Elections are for people, they don’t need to have a permanent date, in any case, if one is saying that it’s against the law to postpone, it’s fine but laws are made by people and it’s the same people who can change them. Don’t talk about excuses that there is no time for amendment of election laws when people are dying. There is nothing impossible as long it’s what will save the country. Laws are made to help people but if they instead turn against us, then there is no use for them,” he said.
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