Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine
Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine has warned the Electoral Commission and President Yoweri Museveni to abandon plans of organising 'scientific' elections under the guise of protecting masses from coronavirus disease.
The EC, last week, announced a deviation from the norm, banning mass campaign rallies for next year's general election. Instead, the electoral body insisted that those vying for the various political seats, reach out to their electorate through digital and electronic media including radios, TVs, print and social media.
EC cited the dangers posed by mass gatherings in the spread of coronavirus that has ravaged the entire world since December 2019. The highly infectious disease spreads from person-to-person through touching contaminated surfaces and then touching an unprotected face as well as inhaling air droplets of an infected person.
As such, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended that countries ban mass gatherings and public transport, maintain social distancing among other preventive measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Nearly the entire world went into lockdown between February and May this year - with countries only starting to ease some movement and gathering restrictions recently.
But Kyagulanyi said the coronavirus disease is no excuse enough for Uganda to hold 'scientific elections' because countries with worse COVID-19 statistics have successfully held normal conventional election processes. Uganda currently has 774 confirmed coronavirus cases with over 631 recoveries and no deaths as yet. He wondered how the people of Malawi, Burundi and United States of America that are also affected by the pandemic were able to have normal election processes including holding mass rallies.
Kyagulanyi told journalists in Kampala that as People Power movement, they were taken aback by the proposal to outlaw open-air campaigns, saying this is unacceptable to him and the group he leads.
Kyagulanyi by doing this, Museveni risks being shoved out of power through mass uprisings.
“You either organize a free and fair election or step down peacefully but if you continue provoking Ugandans, Ugandans will rise up against you and you will end up in the dustbin of history,” Kyagulanyi said.
He described the 'scientific election' as another ploy by Museveni to extend beyond 35 years his tenure as the president of Uganda. He said after the attack on parliament in 2017 in a bid to push through the bill scrapping presidential term limits, he thought he had seen the worst Museveni can go to just to keep himself in power.
“As we speak now, most urban places are filled with people; no social distancing, no nothing and if you want to prove the words I’m saying, go to Kikuubo or Nateete or any other urban centre that you can reach fast,” Kyagulanyi said.
He added that no Ugandan should be fooled into believing that Museveni is doing this for their safety.
"There was no coronavirus when our consultation meetings were stopped. There was no coronavirus when Museveni personally stopped all our shows, so, we must all know that what Museveni fears are the people,” Kyagulanyi said.
He said that the authorities are hiding under COVID-19 just as they were hiding under the Public Order Management Act, to stop opposition groups from reaching the people.
"He doesn’t want us to reach the people. There is nothing like a scientific election for us what we are going for is a real election."
EC chairperson Simon Byabakama said earlier that they met Museveni at State House to pitch the need for a new head office for the electoral body.
The commission has until July to vacate the current premises on Jinja road and pave way for the construction of the Jinja expressway. Several politicians within the ruling party and opposition have come out to condemn the EC for not consulting them before designing and announcing such an electoral roadmap.
But Byabakama said the EC is under no obligation to consult anybody before designing an election roadmap, warning politicians that they are running out of time. He also wondered what type of politicians Uganda has who don’t value the lives of their people and want to take them in an election that might compromise their health.
Many commentators have argued that digital and electronic campaigns favour the incumbents who have privileged access to mass media. The digital campaigns will also likely lockout a majority of the population without access to social media, radios and TVs or even electricity.
Some have also argued that most of the country's media houses are privately owned, and only those with money will have access to them. Even then, the state-owned media such as Uganda Broadcasting Corporation has been declared as biased against opposition candidates in previous elections by Ugandan courts.
While addressing the nation yesterday, Museveni advised Ugandans to embrace the scientific elections for their own safety. He said, for now, health takes priority over wealth, convenience, jobs and businesses.
Despite calls of a joint opposition candidate and purported talks within the opposition, Kyagulanyi insisted that he will be on the ballot to take on Museveni next year.