Police have admitted they made mistakes in misreading the law and violently breaking up consultative meetings of presidential aspirant and Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine.
Bobi Wine also admitted that he and his People Power group made some errors by not complying with the EC advice not to hold processions during the consultative process.
The admissions were made during a closed-door meeting presided over by the Electoral Commission (EC) officials at the EC offices in Kampala yesterday, police and Bobi Wine and three other presidential aspirants.
On December 20, the EC cleared Bobi Wine and three other presidential aspirants to go out and consult the masses about their candidatures.
The other three aspirants are Mr John Herbert Nkugabwa, Mr Fred Mwesigye and Mr Joseph Mwambazi.
However, on January 6 when Bobi Wine attempted to hold his first consultative meeting in Gayaza in his constituency, police cordoned off the venue and had violent clashes with his supporters.
Kasangati town plunged into smoke following the firing of teargas and live bullets as police battled Bobi Wine supporters.
He was arrested with other People Power officials and supporters but were later released.
Bobi Wine was scheduled to hold similar meetings in Gulu District on January 7 and Lira District on January 8 but both functions were blocked after police deployment.
Police bundled Bobi Wine out of Lira and dumped him at Karuma bridge and later ordered to return to Kampala.
Other scheduled consultative meetings in Adjumani (January 9), Yumbe (January 10), Arua (January 11) and Zombo January 12 were called off following the police crackdown.
Police claimed they broke up the meetings because Bobi Wine violated the law governing public gatherings.
However, after an elaborate briefing about the law by the EC officials yesterday, both police admitted they had misinterpreted some sections of the Public Order Management Act (POMA) and the Presidential Elections Act.
Both Bobi Wine and police agreed to harmonise their positions to allow the aspirants’ consultations proceed uninterrupted.
The EC team led by the chairman Justice Simon Byabakama said Section 3 of the Presidential Elections Act does not specify how consultations should be carried out. However he said they had put restrictions on processions and open door consultations as guidelines.
“These activities when done during consultations can easily be mistaken for campaigns. So we banned them and aspirants should not engage in them,” Justice Byabakama said.
The EC blamed police for misreading provisions of the Public Order Management Act when they demanded unreasonable requirements such as sniffer dogs, fire fighters and a risk assessment report from Bobi Wine to allow his meetings. Police admitted they are the ones to provide these requirements.
Police promised to sit with Bobi Wine and other aspirants to mend fences.
Bobi Wine and his People Power team pledged they would not engage in processions during their consultative process although the law does not prohibit them.
“We have not been intending to carry out processions, people come waving to us and we wave back. We are going to stop this even when we know that the law is not clear on this,” Bobi Wine said.
Shortly after the meeting, Justice Byabakama told journalists that EC had found out that miscommunication, lack of coordination and cooperation between Bobi Wine and police were at the heart of the recent violent clashes between the two.
“We have sent the aspirants and police to go and talk between themselves and make sure there is harmony in the electoral process. Police on its part has to ensure that there is orderliness. This can come when the two sides cooperate and work together,” he said.
The Deputy police spokesperson, Ms Polly Namaye, told Daily Monitor in an interview that they had agreed to correct mistakes to see that the law is followed.
“We have discussed and everyone is now aware of what they ought to do. Going forward, we promise a smooth running of events without disruption. Our mandate is to keep law and order and we shall always follow that,” Ms Namaye said.
However, during the meeting, Bobi Wine’s team blamed EC for not adhering to section 88 of the Presidential Elections Act. The EC conceded and said they would act.
The section requires the EC to set regulations and guidelines under which aspirants carry out consultations, level the ground for candidates, especially in accessing the media and voter information distribution among others.
The EC is, thereafter, required to submit the set guidelines to Parliament through the Minister for the Presidency for approval and later give them to the aspirants.
Following the harmonisation meeting with EC, Bobi Wine called off all his scheduled consultative meetings and said he would draw a fresh schedule later after agreeing with police on the modalities.
Police, Bobi Wine and other aspirants did not announce the date when they will meet to agree on the common procedure for consultations.
“We are not holding any more meeting for now.
Since we are law abiding citizens, we shall meet with the police and address all the issues they have. Then we shall make another programme for the next phase of consultative meetings because we are mandated to do it by law,” Bobi Wine said.
Mr Crispy Kaheru, the former coordinator of Citizen Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda, was pessimistic about yesterday’s meeting.
He said it might not yield much in terms of bringing serenity during the consultations because of some individuals in government.
“The institutions such as police and EC could have the good will of seeing the consultations done without fights but there are individuals in government and other institutions who don’t want to see Bobi Wine consult people and these will foil everything.
I advise him to use other methods like private meetings, social media, music and other forms to reach people,” Mr Kaheru said.
Former Kyadondo East MP Apollo Kantinti said: “We have always seen the EC fail to fulfil their own promises and doing the contrary.
Let us see whether they will practise the mandate given to them by the law and not coming back to tell us that the police is the one supposed to implement these things.”
Mr Erias Lukwago, the Kampala Lord Mayor said: “I don’t think EC went in this meeting with all honesty. I know it was cosmetic and trying to show people that they can intervene. They have always posed that way.
They should have called Mr Musevenui to order who is already campaigning through his trek and as if sounding war drums.”
President Museveni yesterday completed a six-day 195km trek through the Luweero Triangle, the epicentre of his 1981-1986 guerrilla war that brought him to power, 34 years ago.
He met and addressed residents on the route.
By Daily Monitor