By Kevin Patrice
President Yoweri Museveni has described the insistence by some Ugandans to hold the 2021 general elections despite the Covid19 scare as an act of insanity and a symbol of lack of wisdom.
Since Museveni started issuing measures aimed at combating the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, some Ugandans have been wondering if elections will be postponed or held in time as planned for early 2021. From banning political meetings to declaring a lockdown, chances of holding polls have been reducing although the Electoral Commission (EC) has insisted it would not push the elections forward because the law didn’t allow that.
But Museveni has now made it clear that it would be reckless to allow people to converge at polling stations under the current circumstances since such an action but many at risk of contracting Covid19 and spreading it to their communities.
“It will be madness to say, ‘You go and [vote], for people to gather, I don’t think it will be wise,” said Museveni.
Speaking during the second National Prayers on Covid19 at State House Entebbe, Museveni said his government’s “strategy is to limit the number of Covid19 positive cases to a manageable one; prohibit its spread, as we wait for the vaccine.”
In his earlier address delivered on May 04, Museveni said it would be disastrous to open up areas of mass concentration such as school and gatherings. He even said schools could be closed for a term or even a year.
But democracy activists like former Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) Coordinator National Coordinator Crispin Kaheru have argued that is no need of postponing elections.
“Practically, let the election stakeholders review their plans with a view of recovering the time lost due to the Covid-19 disruption – and plan to go to the polls in January/February 2021,” wrote Kaheru in a recent opinion published by The Daily Monitor.
Kaheru argued that Museveni should have no excuse to postpone the elections since countries with higher Covid19 cases had held elections recently. He gave an example of South Korea which held legislative elections in April which even had the highest voter turn-out since 1992. Describing any move by Museveni to postpone next year’s elections as “contradictory”, Kaheru urged the EC and government at large to draw lessons from South Korea regarding elections during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Election administrators emphasised health and safety measures, including social distancing. Political campaigns were conducted virtually via media (radio, TV, social media, internet) – and they turned out cheaper and more serene. Voters and polling officials had to wear masks and gloves. Polling stations had hand-washing facilities alongside temperature guns to measure body temperatures of voters,” noted Kaheru.
“Of course, South Korea is not Uganda in any way, but the rate of Covid-19 infections in Uganda at the moment is far less than what it was when South Korea went to the polls. Therefore, what Uganda needs is probably not postponing the election, but rather integrating health and safety measures in its electoral framework.”
Interestingly, Kaheru’s argument was supported by Gender, Labour and Social Development Minister Frank Tumwebaze, who said: “I agree with you Crispin Kaheru. Covid19 disruptions notwithstanding, we can still hold the 2021 general elections. We can discuss and agree on reasonable SOPs to guide the electioneering process. Talking of postponement is being far-fetched.”
But opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party vice president for Eastern Uganda recently told Watchdog Uganda that there was no need to rush to hold elections while putting the lives of Ugandans at risk.
“Ugandans, let’s get serious, what’s there to push for elections under the current situation? Elections have been there and they will always be there but I think public safety should be held paramount. I think there are lots of other alternatives we can use to discuss possible solutions should there be no elections,” said Musumba.
Besides, his description of the idea of 2021 elections as madness, Museveni also called those who think he is using Covid19 to gain political capital and suffocate his political opponents fools speaking nonsense.
“Who could wish for this so that I speak and become popular? [That is] rubbish! Idiots!” the president said.