The Inspector General of Police Okoth Martin Ochola has this morning said that the law enforcement body has opted to a take tough approach against political candidates who have adamantly declined to adhere to the Electoral Commission guidelines and Ministry of Health standard operating procedures to contain the spread of Covid-19.
This follows the arrest of Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi in Luuka district by the joint task force. Kyagulanyi was picked up following an impasse with security officers in Luuka district. Police and the army, during the incident, fired teargas to disperse Bobi Wine’s supporters.
“As you are aware, the political campaigns have entered day nine for Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government positions. Although the guidelines issued by the Electoral Commission are clear, we continue to witness candidates and their agents holding unauthorized rallies, processions and assemblies,” said the Inspector General in a statement.
Ochola said that unlike in 2016, this time the world is faced with a pandemic that can only be controlled if people adhere to Ministry of Health guidelines with regulated gatherings of not more than 200 people and the use of online media to help safeguard the health and safety of all Ugandans and visitors to the country.
“While we understand the right to freedom of expression as a very important part of democracy, unauthorized assemblies are currently prohibited under the Electoral Commission and Ministry of Health guidelines. As a result, the safety and security of all candidates, their agents and the successful conduct of the political campaigns remains a top priority. Fortunately, all candidates are aware of these guidelines,” he said.
The joint security taskforce pointed out that during the first 9 days, they have repeatedly cautioned all individual actors and political groups, against acts of civil disobedience like holding unauthorized and defiant campaigns, burning of tyres, use of illegal road blocks, deflating tyres of police vehicles, intimidation, looting shops, dangerous driving on major roads and provocative behavior towards law enforcement personnel.
The police commander, however, said that despite repeated warnings issued to candidates, their agents and wider public about the negative impact and health risks of holding unauthorized rallies and processions, police continue to witness acts of defiance and total disregard of the EC guidelines.
“Therefore, those who shall defy these Electoral Commission guidelines with their sinister plans aimed at disrupting the electoral process will definitely suffer consequences,” Ochola said.
“We have, therefore, adopted a tougher approach to preserve the integrity of the electoral process. We have dispatched our specialist teams and quick reaction teams, to identify ring leaders (and principals) for apprehension in the face of crime. We have disseminated our comprehensive policing plan to all territorial commanders for them to implement without fear or favor,” he added.
In addition, the Electoral and Political Offences Department at CID headquarters has obtained videos of the respective campaign trails, and started gathering evidence to press formal charges, on candidates, campaign agents and influencers who are caught on the wrong side of the law.
Ochola reminded Ugandans that covid-19 is real and urged members of the public to be very vigilant and cautious during the political campaigns.
“We remain confident that we shall deliver a peaceful campaign process where the rights of all Ugandans are protected,” he said.
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