COMMENT | Samson Tinka | Elections are known to be an activity that attracts crowds, generates excitement as people switch from happiness, anger and back. Candidates commit time and money, whereas voters commit time and expectations.
In third world countries, where democracies are still young, candidates and their supporters expect winning and nothing short of that. We rarely see opponents congratulating others. If it happens its on a small scale, as it is always a matter of life and death.
These campaigns attract both good and bad people. Bad people commit all sorts of crimes including, theft, assault, abuse of traffic rules and regulations, over speeding, driving or riding under influence of alcohol and drugs, mugging, fighting, use of abusive language and includes civilians confronting security agencies.
The moment campaigns set off, such crimes will then involve victims and perpetuators.
It is often only until one is a victim that we appreciate why safety and security is paramount during the electoral process. Many innocent people, including those in the business fraternity, by passers, children and women have become innocent victims. This is attributed either to lack of knowledge on how to secure themselves or to poor planning by campaign facilitators.
Ideally you would expect candidates’ promoters to select venues that are far away from business concentrated areas. But again, campaign mangers want densely populated areas to pull crowds as a sign of their mighty candidate. This would be ok if crowds were managed properly, but it always not the case.
The situation has also not been helped by the COVID-19 pandemic, and all signs are that the country will suffer a new wave because of the carelessness in the elections by candidates.
Most presidential and parliamentary candidates have moved to country side with their Kampala supporters. Its on record that Kampala has the highest covid19 infection rates if we are to go by MOH records and figures.
How to keep safe and secure
- Stay aware from the big gatherings. Voters should know that at the end of the day, its one vote. Whether one shouts or keeps quite and watch events form the comfort of his house, shop, come 14th Jan 2021, it will be one person one vote. Therefore, keep off from the crowd.
- If by all means one has to go to the campaign venue, please do so while maintaining the MOH and presidential SOPs directives. Corona virus doesn’t differentiate between candidates and voter. Its only looking for unserious Ugandan not wearing mask but shouting on top of their voice. Three days after the candidate has gone, that’s when you will appreciate why wearing masks and keeping social distance is important. People are in pain; people have died due to recklessness.
- Avoid confrontation with security agencies. Many civilians don’t respect, listen and follow security officers command. The security officers are simply doing their job so do not expect romance. They work on orders. And this is by both training and practice. Until this is known by civilian population, we shall continue seeing bad exchanges between these two groups. Wanaichi should practice and learn to listen and follow security officers’ commands and instructions.
- Avoid being used. Boda boda guys are usually offered small facilitation in form of fuel and after become reckless. They abuse every traffic sign, carry more passengers than recommended, climb walkways, and that’s why whenever there is an accident in a procession, many people either die or get critically injured. It is important to follow traffic rules to dot.
- Campaign teams should have an ambulance, first aid equipment on them. Its possible to have cases that may require first aid or quick evacuation. We have so far registered candidates either dying or injured during campaigns.
- One of the ways to be security conscious during election time is to always stay abreast with issues. One of the ways to comfortably do this is by listening to the news always. News hour alerts us on areas with possible chaos.
- If you have plans to move around with huge amount of cash during election, then you want to consider having a re-think, as this is no time to do such. Miscreants take advantage of the period to rob people off their valuables.
- If after the elections your candidate wins, then it is important that you celebrate in a civil manner. It is no time to begin to paint the town red in a lavish style. Remember, that some folks who are in support of the opposition may not be too happy.
Finally, we need to remember that there is life after 14th January 2021. Elections should not create enmity, rob us of life and other valuables. Elections come and go but humanity lives. We should be much aware that there is always one winner.
Congratulating the winner is a confirmation of mature politics. If you don’t want to lose don’t participate in elections. Our families, relatives, businesses, friends still want us alive. Living a responsible life and avoiding conflicts during these elections will not only spare our lives but also secure businesses and the economy.
We must be mindful of COVID-19 This disease is dangerous and it has the capacity to whip out humanity. It affects both the economy and life at the same time. It hinders trade, compromises social life and has no medicine and vaccine yet. Let’s practice safety and ensure security prevails.
Samson Tinka is a safety and security expert.
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