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Human Rights Defenders Task EC on Enforcement of SOPs During Campaigns

Robert Kirenga, the Executive Director of the coalition says the EC needs to take control of the campaign process by making sure that candidates adhere to the SOPs. Kirenga says while electoral processes are fundamental for any democracy, at this time, following SOPs is more important because it saves lives.
Presidential Candidate Robert Kyagilanyi campaigning in Mayuge district recently.

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Civil Societies under the Uganda Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda have tasked the Electoral Commission to ensure that all presidential candidates adhere to the covid-19 Standard Operating Procedures.

According to the coalition, some presidential candidates are not adhering to the set SOPs, which they say is endangering the lives of the voters. They say this is contrary to the election guidelines which urge all presidential candidates to adhere to the ministry of health SOPs such as wearing a mask and carrying out campaigns of not more than 200 people.

The call comes at a time when the country is a critical stage of the COVID-19 response with widespread community infections.

Robert Kirenga, the Executive Director of the coalition says the EC needs to take control of the campaign process by making sure that candidates adhere to the SOPs.

Kirenga says while electoral processes are fundamental for any democracy, at this time, following SOPs is more important because it saves lives.

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Currently, more than 2,000 hospital beds dedicated to COVID treatment are fully occupied and some people are being advised to undergo home care isolation. As of Tuesday 16,020 cases of the disease were confirmed with 145 deaths.

Dr Charles Olaro, the Director of Curative Services at the Ministry of Health says that it is important for people to adhere to SOPs to protect health workers.

He says if health workers start falling sick and eventually die, the already-stretched health system will crumble.

"Please let everyone wear a mask. Right now this disease is everywhere and our health workers have begun falling sick. To protect the people who treat the sick, let us wear masks," he said.

A meeting held on Monday between the Electoral Commission and six presidential candidates, the EC chairman Justice Simon Mugyenyi Byabakama urged all presidential candidates to observe all SOPs and election guidelines. He said candidates who continued to flout the guidelines would force the EC to resort to tougher measures.

The EC did not reveal what measures it would take to ensure the SOP are observed.  However, the Public Health Act says that anyone who contravenes SOPs like holding a gathering of more than 200 people is liable to imprisonment of not more than two months.