Recently, the Electoral Commission chairman Justice Simon Byabakama had announced that aspiring presidential candidates are free to consult their supporters. However opposition leaders have told The Sunrise that the Police misinterpretes the law and other EC guidelines to do politics for the regime.
“Every aspiring presidential candidate is free to consult but there are procedures to be followed before one holds consultations,” stressed Byabakama. The EC boss however urged all aspiring candidates to observe set procedures to avoid fouling the set rules on campaigning before they are declared full candidates.
Justice Byabakama made the comments while speaking to journalists ahead of celebrations to commemorate this years international day of democracy. Byabakama’s clarification comes amid complaints from sections of the public that the ruling government and incumbent president Yoweri Museveni are already campaigning yet security agencies are actively preventing his rivals from holding rallies to address supporters.
Jotham Taremwa the Electoral Commission spokesperson said while asked to clarify on the set procedures that they are prescribed under the presidential elections act. “The Electoral Commission is an independent body that treads on the heels of the constitution, I therefore urge Presidential aspirants to observe section three of the presidential elections Act” Taremwa revealed.
A consultation under section three of the Presidential Elections Act stipulates that the presidential candidate may consult in preparation for nomination and he has to consult within twelve months before nomination date. It further requires the aspirant to introduce him or herself to the Electoral Commission, inform the police and relevant local councils where one intends to hold consultations.
But Opposition leaders have told The Sunrise that even when EC is aware of their political intentions, police still disrupts their rallies.
Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Secretary General Nathan Nandala Mafabi says the opposition parties follow what the law says but still the police beats and teargases them. “We abide by the law but still we are beaten and teargassed by police and I don’t really know why they don’t apply the same force to President Museveni!” said Mafabi. Mafabi further accuses the Electoral Commission of bias and favouring the incumbent.
“The Electoral Commission is not independent, it’s just Museveni’s thing, so even when he does wrong they don’t intervene. They are only satisfying the boss; actually if they were independent they would advise him not to stop us from holding consultations as he does. Even the police are directed by the Electoral Commission,” Mafabi added.
The Alliance for New Transformation (ANT) president Rtd. Gen. Gregory Mugisha Muntu says they move in line with what the law provides and yet still find themselves at the receiving end of Police’s brutal suppression. “Whenever we are to hold consultations, we move in line with what the law requires as to do but most times the police misinterprets the law. The law requires us to give information but not seek permission.” Muntu said.
Muntu also accuses police of working for the regime. “The police follows orders from the regime that operates in survival mode. The regime fears competition, that’s why they continue restricting the opposition from consulting.”
Police speaks out.
The Uganda Police spokesperson Fred Enanga however rubbished claims by the opposition leaders that they play politics in disrupting opposition rallies. He also cites the ambiguity in the law which speaks about a candidate before one is actually nominated.
“There is no presidential aspirant that has been declared by the Electoral Commission. This indicates that they don’t follow the law. If one follows the law then probably we as police shall do what the law calls for.”