Court upholds EC ban on campaigns as Lukwago’s petition is dismissed

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The high court has ruled in favor of the Electoral Commission as Erias Lukwago’s petition against the decision to ban campaign in 12 districts ended in vain.

Kampala Lord Mayor, Mr Erias Lukwago earlier this month challenging EC’s decision to suspended campaign meetings in 12 districts which he said was irrational, illegal and that was never accorded a fair hearing as the political head of Kampala.

In a court hearing held on Monday 11 January, High Court Judge Musa Ssekaana dismissed Lukwago’s application, saying the Electoral Commission (EC) has justifiable reason to suspend election campaign meetings in 12 districts.

Justice Ssekaana reasoned that there was no justification for dispensing with the right to be heard due to the urgency and emergency in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“In the present case the respondent (EC) was trying to stop the spread of deadly Covid-19 and this is justifiable reason not to accord a hearing since it was acting in an emergency, otherwise the intended purpose would have been defeated if the respondent was to delay the decision. Secondly it was impractical to give a hearing to all affected parties like in this case a right to be heard maybe suspended,” Justice Ssekaana held.

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“The decision of EC is premised on the increased numbers of infections of Covid-19 and this is uncontested as the same could still be taken judicial notice supported by the current worldwide spike of a new wave of corona infection which has seen other countries getting in the second lockdown,” he added.

The judge further explained that EC is given special powers in case of any emergency under section 50 of the Electoral Commission Act which cannot be said to be unfettered and non-reviewable.

Mr Lukwago had sought for an order quashing the commission’s decision to suspend election campaigns meetings in Kampala, Wakiso, Mbarara, Kabarole, Jinja, Kalungu, Kazo, Tororo, Luwero, Kasese, Masaka and Mukono districts.

During hearing EC through its lawyer, Mr Eric Sabiiti told court that the electoral activities during this election period were supposed to be conducted in accordance with guidelines aligned to Ministry of Health Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) aimed at preventing of the spread of the coronavirus.

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“When the campaigns kicked off, we noted with concern the noncompliance by some candidates with the same guidelines while conducting campaigns. Several engagements were made with some candidates and their agents but there was no improvement,” Mr Sabiiti explained.

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