Bunyoro RDCs accuse electoral body of voter education gaps

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A policeman mans a roadblock mounted at the junction on Kabaleega Road in Hoima city.

Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) in Bunyoro region have warned that gaps in voter education are putting democracy at risk especially at this time when clashes are evident.

While speaking at the launch of the Voter education Campaign in Bunyoro region at Kolping Hotel in Hoima city, Mr Peter Bebele, the Kiryandongo RDC said he has not seen any engagement organised by the Electoral Commission (EC) aimed at bringing different stakeholders to a common understanding of the situation and forge a way forward to democratic progress.

According to him, there still exist big gaps in community sensitisation to ensure that they can appreciate the importance of the elections and how best they can avoid violence.

Mr Bebele asked the EC staff at national and local levels to get out of their offices and advance to the field where issues occur.

 “They should come out offices because issues do not take place there. We need more of such engagements to ensure that we peacefully go through the campaigns and elections,” he said.

Kiryandongo RDC, Mr Peter Bebele, speaks during the engagement at Kolping Hotel in Hoima City.

Ms Lillian Ruteeraho, the RDC Kagadi urged the people of Bunyoro to desist from hate and tribal campaigns and report to the authorities when such things happen.

According to her, voter education helps RDCs and members of security agencies from being falsely accused by the community of siding with the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) candidates.

She commended CODNET Uganda for organising this engagement saying it has been the first since campaigns started.

Audio: Ruteraaho on campaigns (Runyankole/Rukiga)

Meanwhile, the Kikuube RDC, Mr Richard Tabaaro, challenged members of Civil Society Organisations to always avoid taking sides in politics if they are to build credibility from both the government and the voters.

“Sometimes you see a member of the civil society organisation telling voters about the negative side of a given political party or leaders just like a politician. This confuses us as members of the security and fail to see how we can categorise him,” he said.

Ms Jashmin Kasujja, a Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) official, Hoima regional office speaks at the engagement held at Kolping Hotel in Hoima city.

Ms Jashmin Kasujja, from the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Hoima regional office, urged the population to desist from abusing the cyberspace they have via social media platforms to promote hate talk and attacks against candidates of supporters of opponent parties.

To her, digital rights can be used to promote democracy and co-existence during this electoral period.

Addressing the engagement, Mr Edward Mbiheebwa, the Executive Director for Community Driven Network (CODNET) Uganda said the voter education campaign is also aimed at empowering them to engage candidates on meaningful issues other than demanding trivial items like salt and soap that last the day they are received.

He said ahead of the launch of this campaign, they had identified critical issues in health, education and environment sectors in the project districts of Bunyoro and West Nile regions which he thinks voters should focus on by demanding accountability and commitments from the candidates.

On misinformation, Mr Mbiheebwa cautioned the voters against reacting to rumours about their candidates to trade hate and conflict.

He attributed the recent clashes between police and presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi supporters to the unverified information that initially went viral that Kyagulanyi had been stabbed in the abdomen by security operatives.

The clash resulted in the death of 45 persons leaving more than 100 injured.

Mbihebwa urged all stakeholders to work together for a peaceful electoral process since bloodshed is absolutely not expected out of a democratic process.

Audio: Mbiheebwa on campaigns (English)

With support from the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), CODNET Uganda is implementing a four- month-voter education campaign in six districts of Bunyoro and five in West Nile.

The campaign in Bunyoro has been launched as military and police presence is at its highs in public as opposition presidential candidates are traversing Bunyoro sub-region.

Responding to the public query about the unusual pitching camp of soldiers at Booma Sports Ground in Hoima city on Sunday night, Mr Julius Allan Hakiza, the mid western regional police spokesperson, said  the deployment was aimed at beefing up police in ensuring security of the presidential candidates in the region considering the recent experience of violence across the country.

The roads to the hospital from both Butyaba Road and Main Street remain closed with residents complaining that access to Hoima Regional Referral Hospital is no longer easy.

Whoever wants to access the hospital has to seek permission from the policemen on guard which is not easy for the ordinary persons from rural areas who get services at the regional health facility.

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