The Electoral Commission has said it was compelled to suspend campaign meetings in several districts and cities citing fear of a possible high spread of COVID-19 as candidates seem to have fallen short of observing SOPs and electoral guidelines.
The districts and cities that have been identified are Mbarara, Kabarole, Luwero, Kasese, Masaka, Wakiso, Jinja, Kalungu, Kazo, Kampala and Tororo.
According to the Electoral Commission spokesperson Paul Bukenya the suspension takes immediate effect.
At the start of campaigns the Electoral Commission issued guidelines to be followed by candidates in order to limit the spread of COVID-19, among these was limiting meetings to not more than 200 people and all the identified meeting venues to be preferably outdoor in order to enable the observance of the ministry of health COVID-19 measures.
The move has since been protested by opposition groups including FDC which said its campaigns would continue as planned.
In a press statement last month the Commission noted that some candidates, including Presidential candidates were holding their campaigns in a manner that violates the Guidelines for Conduct of Campaign Meetings.
The commission noted that some candidates are conducting processions along public roads, through towns and trading centres, and are also holding rallies in non-designated venues as per the harmonized campaign programme.
The suspension of campaign meetings in the said districts will come as a shock to both parliamentary and presidential candidates alike.
One of the affected Parliamentary candidates in Wakiso is Lubega Medard Sseggona the incumbent Busiro East MP and National Unity Platform candidate for the same seat, who says the government is panicking and has decided to ban campaigns. He adds that the Electoral Commission has no powers to suspend campaigns.
“They sat and decided to ban campaigns? They do not have the power to ban campaigns. It is not within their power. They are just panicking because someone has pressed the panick button. We will do campaigns our way. An illegal decision is illegal from the word go, everyone is entitled to either defy it or circumvent it. We shall find our own ways of campaigning,” Sseggona said.
Another affected parliamentary candidate in Kampala is the NRM flag bearer for the Nakawa West seat Margaret Zziwa Nantongo who welcomes the suspension in order to save lives. She urges candidates to comply with the order.
“I do not to violate or go against. It is life. I want people to be alive, it is when they are alive that they can vote. Let us not defy. Let us follow the rules…when the lockdown was on, the problem was not as hight , ” Zziwa said.
Some of the Presidential candidates who were yet to campaign in the affected districts include the incumbent and NRM candidate Yoweri Museveni who was meant to be in Wakiso on the 29th December, Kampala on the 30th December and in Kampala again on the 12th of January.
The FDC presidential candidate Patrick Amuriat Oboi was meant to be in Luwero on the 2nd of January, Mbarara on the 3rd January, Entebbe Municipality, Busiro South, Makindye Sabagabo, and Busiro East on the 09th of January.
The National Unity Platform Presidential Candidate Robert Kyaglanyi was meant to be in Makindye East and West, Rubaga south on the 9th of January, Rubgaa North and Busiro South and East on the 10th of January and wrap up is campaigns in Kira municipality, Nakawa East and West as well as Kampala Central on the 12th of January.
According to the ministry of health, the cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19 now stand at 33,360 with 245 deaths.
Of 442 contacts and alerts from tests done on the 24th of December Kampala had 353 and 26 were from Wakiso.