EC silent as candidates violate Covid-19 guidelines

Thursday November 12 2020
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National Unity Platform presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, addresses a rally at Oli Division grounds in Arua City on Tuesday. PHOTO | FELIX WAROM OKELLO

Some presidential candidates are violating the Covid-19 guidelines with impunity even as the Electoral Commission (EC) remains silent.

The candidates have been holding open rallies in violation of EC campaign guidelines.

During the nominations, the EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama, cautioned the 11 candidates against organising campaign rallies that could expose people to coronavirus.

When contacted yesterday, the EC spokesperson, Mr Paul Bukenya, did not have a formal response on the continued violation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

In the context of a pandemic, candidates may have to tread carefully to be able to control crowds in a country that is used to pomp and fanfare at election campaigns.

From the start of presidential nominations by the EC at Kyambogo University playgrounds, security forces have had running battles with some candidates and their supporters for not observing the SOPs to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as guided by the Ministry of Health.

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But the Ministry of Health on Monday also adjusted the number of people allowed in a gathering from 70 to 200 as the country battles the fourth phase of the virus with 14,993 confirmed cases, 7,939 recoveries and 139 deaths as of November 9.

“Statutory Rule 14 shall be amended to allow meetings or gatherings of not more than 200 persons provided the persons who attend such events maintain a two metre distance in all directions from each other,” Health minister Jane Ruth Achieng during a media address on Monday.   

Some candidates like Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, the National Unity Party presidential candidate, had crowds gather by the roadside as he headed for his campaigns in West Nile.

 Bobi Wine’s team, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC)’s Patrick Amuriat and Gen Mugisha Muntu’s seem to take the lead in having crowds more than the required number.

Other candidates like Gen Henry Tumukunde and Mr Nobert Mao have had manageable crowds though some exceed the required 200 people in some gatherings.

The incumbent, Yoweri Museveni, has mainly held meetings with smaller groups and regional leaders. The NRM leader also uses local FM stations to speak to the voters about his campaign promises.

As he left Barlege in Otuke District yesterday, Mr Museveni said: “The commitment to all our supporters is that we shall bring the message to you, but safely. Stay safe, do not tempt the pandemic.”

The law enforcement officers have equally been warned by Police spokesperson Fred Enanga to be cautious and take care of their health while exercising their duties.

But police have often been caught up in running battles or arresting of people during the campaigns.

Whereas some people have criticised especially Bobi Wine’s campaign team for failing to adhere to the SOPs, the leader says people just show up to wave at their candidate.

“They know his (Bobi Wine) routes and they will wait for him at every town council,” Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, the NUP party spokesperson told Daily Monitor yesterday.

He added: “But you saw what happened during the NRM primaries where there were massive crowds. I do not know whether Covid-19 only spreads in Opposition crowds and not NRM crowds.”

While campaigning in Kawempe Division on Tuesday, Gen Muntu asked the government to be clear on the Covid-19 situation and not use it as a political tool to limit campaigns.

According to an Amendment to the Public Health Control Rule of Covid-19 issued on November 9, those who violate the rules are to face imprisonment not exceeding two months.

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