Presidential and parliamentary candidates have been warned that mobilizing supporters to gather at campaign venues in large numbers is illegal and that all processions are banned including those held in public roads, through towns and trading centres.
Holding rallies in non-designated venues as per the harmonized campaign program violates the Electoral Commission’s guidelines.
This is all contained in a joint security statement on the state of security issued on Friday evening.
In their statement, the security chiefs warned that making impromptu stopovers in trading centres, attracting and addressing public gatherings along busy highways from car rooftops, and other spontaneous public addresses are a violation of the Electoral Commission’s Guidelines and the COVID-19 Rules which provide for the conduct of the campaign meetings only in the approved venues and in accordance with the harmonized campaign program, which clearly indicates the dates, time and location of such meetings.
They further noted that non-compliance with the law and the Guidelines issued for the campaign period necessitates the intervention of law enforcement agencies to safeguard public health and safety.
“The mandate of the Uganda Police Force as provided in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, and the Uganda Police Force Act Cap 303, is the protection of life and property, prevention and detection of crime, keeping law and order, and maintenance of overall Security and Public safety in Uganda.”
“The mandate of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces under the constitution and the UPDF Act of 2005 includes national defence, preserving the sovereignty of Uganda, and aiding the authorities and sister security agencies where disturbance of the peace occurs or is likely to occur.”
The security chiefs said the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, the Police Act and the UPDF Act enables the UPF and the UPDF to jointly work together on matters of national security and that they have accomplished several tasks of security significance, through joint coordination.
They mentioned some of the challenges in the enforcement of the EC Guidelines and COVID Rules as; deliberate and consistent non-compliance and lack of adherence to EC guidelines and the law by some Politicians, deliberate acts of provocation, obstruction and attacks on law enforcement officers and eliberate departure from routes and venues that have been agreed upon with the candidate’s district’s agents.
Other challenges are; rampant hooliganism and riotous behavior, disobedience of lawful orders and failure to responsibly lead and guide supporters by some political actors on the proper behavior required to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, assault and violent conduct towards security personnel in the line of lawful duty, total disregard for life and public safety and incitement to violence, hate speech and promotion of sectarianism, fake news are being orchestrated through social media.
“These, in addition to blackmail, threats and cyber bullying of officers and their families in an attempt to discourage them from carrying out their assignments. Stake holders like the Press are failing in their public responsibility to educate and provide awareness about the EC Guidelines and COVID-19 Rules. This has led to a spike in infection rates and deaths from COVID-19. In addition, there is failure by the Press to consistently point out these breaches of public health laws instead of glorifying the breaches as an exercise of freedom of assembly” the statement reads.
These freedoms are not absolute and should not be exercised in a manner that prejudices the rights and freedoms of others. Lack of a unified approach and consistency in emphasizing the seriousness of following the EC Guidelines and COVID-19 Rules by a cross section of all national stakeholders leaving law enforcement alone to handle the consequences of these breaches.