According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, the term “sectarian” refers to ‘of or concerning a sect; bigoted or narrow-minded in following the doctrines of one’s sect; a member of a sect’.
Independent presidential candidate Abed Bwanika last week opened the Pandora’s box of sectarianism talk after he urged Baganda to vote him because he comes from the same social construction as them.
The veterinarian, pastor-cum-politician said he was disturbed by the way Baganda vote, in most cases preferring candidates from other regions as opposed to one of their own:
In the 1996 elections, President Museveni polled 1,221,165 votes in Buganda while Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, a Muganda, polled 331,641 although the latter won in other regions, including West Nile.
Dr Bwanika’s proclamation notwithstanding, the rest of the candidates in the race have so far been very cautious about making such statements especially in face of the country’s history of sectarian-driven political violence. In fact, there is a law prohibiting sectarian tendencies.
President Museveni, the incumbent and who is seeking a fifth elective term in office, is the biggest critic of sectarianism and all elements of its representation and in some instances has been accusing the Opposition of having intentions of returning politics of sectarianism, which he said his ruling NRM fought long time ago.
However, there are laws that guide candidates on this divisive talk.
Section 15 of the Presidential Elections Act states that:
(3) A person shall not be allocated a symbol or colour which has a tribal or religious affiliation or any other sectarian connotation.
Section 25 which describes the tights of candidates says:
(5) A candidate shall not while campaigning, do any of the following
(c) make statements containing sectarian words or innuendoes;
(d) make abusive, insulting or derogatory statements;
(e) make exaggerations or use caricatures of other candidates or using words of ridicule.
Section 25 on non-sectarian campaign states that:
(1) A person shall not use a symbol or colour which has a tribal, religious affiliation or any other sectarian connotation as a basis for that persons candidature for election or in support of that person’s campaign.
(2) Under the Movement political system, a person shall not use as a basis for his or her candidature or campaign, a symbol or colour of a political organisation or party.
(3) A person who contravenes subsection (1) or (2) commits an offence and is liable on conviction—
(a) in the case of an offence under subsection (1), to a fine not exceeding one hundred and twenty currency points or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both; and
(b) in the case of an offence under subsection (2), to a fine not exceeding twenty four currency points or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.