On the 26th of November, 2020, the Electoral Commission (EC) Chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama wrote to the IGP Okoth Ochola regarding the incessant police interference with the Presidential campaigns. He condemned the tendency by police to block candidates from accessing their campaign venues. It is no secret that the police applies favouritism in its operations; being more of an impedement to expressive freedoms as opposed to being peace keepers.
This time, the EC was edged out of silence and expressed dissatisfaction through the aforementioned letter. The first police commentary on the letter was made by Fred Enanga who acknowledged receipt of the same.
On the 27th of November, the IGP wrote back to the EC requiring details of those candidates who were claiming to have been blocked from accessing their venues. The reason he gave for this was “to be in a position to make specific response to the allegations once the particulars are made known” to them.
He further noted that the police had done its best to restrain candidates from staging rallies which could have risked the lives of citizens. They did this in consideration of the Covid19 pandemic. A noble thing indeed! It’s also an explanatory aid for several actions by the police. Whereas the EC, the public and the candidates were unaware, the police had not forgotten its primary role in this campaign; blocking candidates from accessing venues to deter mass gatherings.
One may sense that the IGP is very proud of the role his command has played in the campaigns so far. It is fathomable that he would, in the same measure and spirit, be aware of police operations. He would be aware of those candidates that have been the proverbial thorn in his side. Those candidates who the police have, on several occasions, encountered with the intention of holding mass gatherings.
Yet, the police boss seems not to be as enthusiastic about records keeping as he is about executing blockades. In any case, he claimed not to know who these candidates whose freedoms have been so violated are. For that reason, we should not expect to see substantial change in the manner in which police operates. At least, not until the EC has notified the IGP of who the mysterious claimants are.
Of course, as one may expect, the police by its nature is impartial and indifferent. Similar to the nature of courts which bars them from making judgments based on facts not presented to them during proceedings. Simply, it doesn’t matter that something, though not substantiated, is public knowledge. As such, the police cannot be expected to act off of unknown reports and media coverage, which the EC cited in the letter.
Meanwhile, Justice Simon Byabakama has met with Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi to discuss the prevalent problem of violence. He had requested to meet with the Chairperson and members of the EC to make a presentation on issues concerning the conduct of Presidential campaigns. The EC granted the request and a meeting scheduled for this morning. He attended it in accompaniment of NUP officials.
As we wait for the outcome of this meeting, perhaps the IGP may take a hint at who is claiming police unfairness! Police ought to end the habit of playing fools to fool the public. This nosense of ‘order from above’ is not valid authority. Who on earth is this ‘above’?
It is apparent from the IGP’s reply that the police is not phased by the EC caution. One thing’s for sure; although the EC is mandated to issue electoral guidelines and ensure that they are followed and enforced correctly, it is not the ‘above’ in this context. Though, by all intents and purposes, it should be!
- Joel Kenneth Ndawula is a Student of Law at Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi. He is an inspired writer, the editor and author here; a blogger of sorts.
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