As you are aware, the political campaigns have entered day nine, for Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government positions. 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 the elections of 2016, this time we are 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.
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.
During these first 9 days, we have repeatedly cautioned all individual actors and political groups, against acts of civil disobedience like; holding unauthorized and defiant campaigns, burning of tyres, use of illegal road blocks, deflating tyres of police vehicles, intimidation, looting shops, dangerous driving on major roads and provocative behavior towards law enforcement personnel.
In an effort to maintain the integrity of the Electoral process, the Electoral Commission and law enforcement agencies, reached out to all candidates and their campaign agents to discourage violence.
Despite repeated warnings issued to candidates, their agents and wider public about the negative impact and health risks of holding unauthorized rallies and processions, we continue to witness acts of defiance and total disregard of the EC guidelines. 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 favor.
In addition, the 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.
We remain confident that we shall deliver a peaceful campaign process where the rights of all Ugandans are protected.
J.M. Okoth-Ochola (Esq)
INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE