Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Electoral Commission (EC) has been dragged to court for banning open-air campaigns in the run-up to the 2021 general elections.
Ugandans will go to the polls between January and February 2021, to elect a President, Members of Parliament (MPs) and Local Council (LC) leaders.
But instead of the usual open air campaigns, the commission suggested that contenders for the various political offices will use different media platforms as the main avenue through which they can reach the electorate. This is in line with the Ministry of Health guidelines that prohibit mass gatherings in the wake of the novel coronavirus.
A day after the roadmap was unveiled, Ugandan journalist-pastor Joseph Kabuleta wrote to the Electoral Commission (EC) demanding a meeting with key stakeholders like the political parties regarding the most appropriate ways of conducting elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. He demanded that the meeting be held in two days to avoid a court battle.
On Friday 19th, June 2020, Kabuleta filed a petition before the Civil Division of High Court challenging the manner under which the campaigns are to be conducted. In his application, Kabuleta, through his lawyers led by Daniel Walyemera asked the court to quash the said revised roadmap on grounds that it is not fair in a free and democratic society like Uganda.
He adds that the said guidelines are illegal and contravene the Parliamentary, Presidential and Electoral Commission Acts which provide for open-air rallies that can be attended by all willing voters and pave way for consultation.
He contends that by banning open air campaigns, the commission is unjustifiably restricting freedom of speech and imposing unconstitutional limitations on the public.
Kabuleta now says that unless the High Court quashes the said road map, there is an imminent threat that the Commission will infringe on citizens’ rights to participate in public affairs through freedom of expression of their ideas, right to vote and other fundamental principles of democracy.
Kabuleta becomes the second person after Dr Emmanuel Diini Kisembo to challenge the roadmap and the ban on open-air-campaigns.