EC asks court to dismiss Kabuleta’s application challenging virtual campaigns

Presidential aspirant, Mr Joseph Kabuleta addressing the press at High Court in Kampala. (Courtesy photo).

Electoral Commission (EC) has asked High Court to dismiss an application filed by Presidential aspirant, Mr Joseph Kabuleta, seeking to block digital elections citing abuse of court process.

Last month, the EC released a revised roadmap for the 2021 general elections in which it introduced virtual campaigns as opposed to mass political rallies.

The EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama said the decision was meant to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This prompted Mr Kabuleta, who has declared his intentions to contest for presidency to write to the Commission giving them two days to conduct a meeting with key stakeholders like political parties regarding the most appropriate ways of conducting elections during the pandemic.

However, the Commission did not heed to his request.

As a result, Mr Kabuleta petitioned court to quash the revised roadmap through his lawyers led by Mr Daniel Walyemera.

Mr Kabuleta argued that “the EC is trying to prevent the public from participating in free and fair elections by unjustifiably restricting freedom of speech and imposing unconstitutional limitations on the public.”

He also argued that the said guidelines are “illegal and contravene several electoral laws in the country such as the Parliamentary, Presidential and Electoral Commission Acts, which provide for open rallies.”

However, this (Monday) afternoon, the EC lawyers led byMr Ntambirweki Kandeebe told Justice Esther Nambayo that the application was wrongly filed before High Court.

They argued that the applicant did not exhaust the existing remedies provided for under the law.

The lawyers presented an affidavit sworn by the EC secretary, Mr Sam Rwakoojo, who contends that Mr Kabuleta should have first gone to their seven-member committee, raised his grievances and only run to court after failing to get justice.

According to Mr Rwakoojo, the Commission is mindful of the health of all citizens amidst the prevailing pandemic and as such, they made consultations and got expert guidance from the Health Ministry to conduct virtual campaigns so as to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Commission also told the High Court Judge that its revised road map is reasonable in the circumstances and is not intended to interfere with freedom and independence of aspiring candidates as Mr Kabuleta alleges.

They further state that the allegations by Mr Kabuleta that citizens of Uganda have no proper access to media, television and internet are false.

“I know that there are regulatory agencies in Uganda made to monitor and license the media and promote access to public media. I know that access to mass media is a continuous growth process that keeps changing with advancement of technology all the time”, said Mr Rwakoojo.

Mr Kandeebe says they want court to dismiss the application.

Justice Nambayo has fixed August 14, 2020 to deliver her decision on the matter.

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