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Top Clerics Caution Police Against Brutalizing Presidential Candidates, Supporters

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According to the clerics, the Uganda Police Force needs to appreciate the fact that the manner in, which they endeavour to fulfil their constitutional role will have a direct impact on the electoral process, arguing that it is critical for police to remain impartial in the execution of their mandate. The public has also witnessed blockage of candidates from accessing campaign venues, booked radio programmes and other places by policemen and soldiers.
03 Dec 2020 08:37
Religious leaders meeting officials from the Uganda Police Force. Photo by IRCU.
The Inter-Religious Council of Uganda-IRCU has cautioned police against the brutal force used against opposition presidential candidates as well as citizens in the ongoing political campaigns.  This came up in a meeting between top clerics including the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev. Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu, Dr. Joseph Serwadda, the Presiding Apostle of Born Again Faith Federation and Msgr. Charles Kasibante and a team of senior police officers on the ongoing campaigns held Wednesday.

According to the clerics, the Uganda Police Force needs to appreciate the fact that the manner in, which they endeavour to fulfill their constitutional role will have a direct impact on the electoral process, arguing that it is critical for police to remain impartial in the execution of their mandate. The clerics also noted that the actions of police officers are making it impossible for the Electoral Commission to deliver free and fair elections to the country and suggested that the police explore more humane ways to quell riots, enforce arrests and investigations.



"The the ongoing electoral environment has particularly tested the professional ethics and conduct of the police force as well as the personal values of those involved in the operations," said Archbishop Kaziimba. Msgr. Charles Kasibante, the Vicar General of Kampala Archdiocese, said that what is happening is very distressing and unbearable to watch.  “I am wondering whether police can’t come up with another method of policing to avoid this violence?” he asked.  

Archbishop Kaziimba said the have given some consideration on how best they could overcome the dilemma of denying duly nominated presidential candidates with an agreed roadmap a chance to share their manifestos with voters to make informed choices. “On the other hand, is the natural excitement, passion of the electorate when candidates visit their areas, COVID-19 withstanding," he said.  

He said their proposal is that the number of at a given rally should be determined by the capacity of the selected venue.

"In this case, they will be required to hand wash, wear masks and observe social distance. Obviously, this will require close collaboration between security agencies and organizers of the public rallies/meetings. We trust that this will minimize clashes between campaign organizers and security agencies and unnecessary loss of lives. We think that this is a more realistic way of managing the inevitable excitement and desire of the supporters to interact with the political candidates," he argued.

He said the other option would be to conduct scientific campaigns as originally envisaged without any rallies, which would mean that the Electoral Commission and Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) provide airtime to candidates. According to Kaziimba, this would mean allocating the airtime equally to all political candidates for the remainder of the campaign period. 

“This can be an option to open campaign rallies and meetings that have proved to be too costly and difficult to manage under the COVID-19 guidelines,” he said. In his response, the Chief Political Commissar of Uganda Police Assistant Inspector General of Police- AIGP Asan Kasingye, said the Force has not held any meeting where a decision has been taken to intentionally block the National Unity Platform-NUP presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu from campaigning.

The Director of Operations Uganda Police Force, Edward Ochom also claimed that some presidential candidates have failed to comply with the campaign program that they submitted to the electoral body, which can’t be tolerated. They, however, assured the religious leaders that their message has been received and will be presented to Police authorities. Police have come under sharp criticism for frustrating the campaigns of opposition candidates to purportedly enforce the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures-SOPs.

Police have repeatedly blocked opposition candidates especially Robert Kyagulanyi, Patrick Amuriat Oboi and Henry Tumukunde from accessing their campaign venues.  On Wednesday, Kyagulanyi halted his campaigns to interface with the Electoral Commission leadership following skirmishes in Kayunga district where his police guard was injured by an explosive fired from a police truck.

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