Uganda: Bobi Wine, EC trade blame over campaign violence
Presidential candidate Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, and the Electoral Commission (EC) on Tuesday engaged in counter-accusations of liability for the violence and other irregularities on the campaign trail.
The National Unity Platform (NUP) party candidate was yesterday meeting EC officials after he was accused of continuously flouting Covid-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in the ongoing presidential campaigns.
Sources that attended the closed-door session told Daily Monitor that the meeting, which ended in a stalemate, neither had a defined agenda nor made resolutions as no side was ready to own up to its mistakes.
“The EC chairman said he had not seen the pictures of [Mr] Museveni flouting the Covid-19 regulations. When the NUP team presented the evidence, he was shy to make a promise. He only said they are ready to conduct free and fair elections,” the source said.
After the meeting that last nearly three hours, Mr Kyagulayi reportedly accused the EC of playing double standards in summoning presidential candidates, alleging that President Museveni, who is also a candidate in the race, has been holding rallies and processions but he has not been summoned.
Bobi Wine reportedly presented to the electoral body pictures showing President Museveni with crowds in diverse places, including Luweero, Kabale and on roadsides, with some artistes in the background.
“Candidate Museveni is going around conducting rallies and carrying processions but EC is paying a deaf ear. Why didn’t the EC also summon Museveni? If the chairperson and the entire EC cannot preside over a free and fair election, let them resign,” Bobi Wine told journalists after the meeting with EC.
He also said EC accused him of causing violence and uncertainty. He counter-accused EC of allowing the election mess to prevail.
“The EC was trying to blame us for the violence, uncertainty and the disorder in the country. We reminded them that it is the police and military that have been meting out the violence to people, and we also reminded them that the injustice by the EC will be the main cause of uncertainty and chaos as it has been in the past,” Bobi Wine said.
He accused EC of not honouring its pledge to call a meeting between security forces and himself to resolve the impasse between the two. He said he has missed rallies in 30 districts because of being blocked by police but EC has done or said nothing about the issue.
“We mentioned to the EC that it is a shame for a presidential candidate to put on a bullet proof vest because of a clear threat to his life, the same threats we have raised to the EC but they have paid a deaf ear. We have reminded them that we have been blocked from accommodation facilities, main routes and that the military and the police have blocked our legally organised meetings but it has done nothing,” Mr Bobi Wine charged.
Mr Byabakama counter-accused Bobi Wine of setting a non-compliance tone, something he said has attracted attention of security forces.
He said Mr Kyagulanyi’s camp has insisted on addressing public rallies with a belief that big numbers count. He advised him to start organising meetings of only 200 people.
“Let presidential candidates play their role, and we shall also play our role as managers of this election. A responsible and good leader would advise voters who turn up in big numbers to observe social distancing and wear their masks, but when you see them and keep quiet, you put their lives in danger,” Justice Byabakama said.
“If a candidate has also organised a rally in a specific location, why should he go ahead and address rallies on his way, the market and in the middle of the road? We are saying let presidential candidates coordinate with their agents to organise venues that can only accommodate 200 people,” he added.
Justice Byabakama also said they asked police to investigate Mr Kyagulanyi’s allegations of security forces blocking him from speaking on radios and TVs, among other complaints.
My Byabakama, however, lashed at Mr Kyagulanyi for asking him to resign. He said the Commission has organised a number of activities, including elections for special interest groups, nominations and updating voter register without any hindrance and, therefore, it is unjustified for Mr Kyagulanyi to ask him to resign.
Asked whether the EC will also summon President Museveni over alleged violation of election guidelines, Justice Byabakama was cagey. Without mentioning Mr Museveni’s name, he said all candidates are supposed to comply with the guidelines.
“We issued guidelines to all candidates and it cuts across all of them. If any candidate is seen not to comply, the matter will be taken by the Commission just like we are doing,” Justice Byabakama said.
He also said the Ministry of Health wrote to him to prevail over the presidential candidates to stop flouting the guidelines following the increasing number of Covid-19 community cases.
When asked whether he was ready to comply with Covid-19 regulations as indicated by the EC, the Kyadondo East legislator said: “We have been observing the regulations. When I reach a campaign rally, the first thing I ask the supporters to do is to wear their masks, at least for those who have them. It is just that the government stole money that was meant to buy masks. I doubt I have control over who comes to see me and wave at me. So I can’t guarantee how many people I will have at my rallies. They blocked me from consulting and singing my music, so there are many people who are hungry to see me,” he said.
On Friday last week, the EC summoned both Mr Kyagulanyi and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party presidential candidate Patrick Oboi Amuriat over alleged persistent flouting of Covid-19 SOPs.
In the letter, Justice Byabakama accused Mr Kyagulanyi and Mr Amuriat of ignoring the Covid-19 SOPs by holding processions and mass rallies, thus putting lives of Ugandans at risk of infection.
The two opposition candidates were supposed to appear in person before the EC on Monday, but they both did not show up. Instead they sent representatives who were rejected by the electoral body, who maintained that candidates should attend in person.
Mr Amuriat was slated to appear before the EC today, but yesterday, he said does not have time and said he can only be available to meet the Commission on Christmas Day, December 25.