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Mbarara Candidates Beat Campaign Ban Using Phones, Social Media

Manzi Munanura, Independent Mbarara South Parliamentary candidate, says he has established a call center to keep in touch with the electorates by making direct telephone calls, sending short messages, plus using WhatsApp and facebook which are cheap compared to radio and television.

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As the election day nears, candidates in Mbarara have resorted to establishing "call centers" and public address system on motorcycles to canvass for votes.

The Electoral Commission last month slapped ban on campaign meetings in 11districts over the upsurge in transmission of Covid-19 cases. The districts are Kazo, Mbarara city and Mbarara District, Kabarole, Jinja District and Jinja City, Kabale, Kalungu, Masaka District and City Inclusive, Luweero, Tororo, Kampala, Wakiso, Greater Mukono.

Announcing the ban, the Electoral Commission stated that according to Health experts the transmission of covid-19 is being exacerbated by mass gatherings and failure to observe standard operating procedures that include wearing of masks, handwashing and maintaining social distance.

Manzi Munanura, Independent Mbarara South Parliamentary candidate, says he has established a call center to keep in touch with the electorates by making direct telephone calls, sending short messages, plus using WhatsApp and facebook which are cheap compared to radio and television.

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According Rita Atukwasa Bwanika, Independent Parliamentary Candidate Woman Seat Mbarara City, the ban exacerbated  the already existing challenges of meeting electorates in small numbers and door to door campaigning that is expensive, pushing them into a corner to choose between campaigning in the areas where they were yet to go and those they had been to as reaching both was no longer feasible.

She says the ban was also not clear whether that it was affecting only presidential candidates or both parliamentary and other local candidates.

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Mweteise Bitabara, candidate for City Division North on the ANT ticket says they are not happy with the way the Electoral Commission is handling the campaigns making politicians forego the markets that accommodate more people on a daily basis.

He accuses the NRM government for being selfish and siding with the electoral commission after knowing that the banned districts are opposition strongholds.

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Robert Mugabe Kakyebezi, NRM party flagbearer for Mbarara city mayor, says he has hired a public address system at a cost of 200,000 shillings on a daily basis which he moves around with to pass on his message.

He says that he has hired a team of IT experts to manage his social media pages and also intensified the house to house campaign.

“You see you have to move with the situation, we need people to know the programs we have for them so we have to devise all means to reach out to them”.

Brain Tukamuhebwa, a motorcycle rider hired by a candidate to move with a speaker playing political songs says he is given 10.000 shillings per day and fuel of 20.000.

He says he rides around a division on a daily basis and makes stopovers at various trading centers to allow people to listen to the songs of the political candidate that hires him.

Ugandans are left with only six days to election day of 14th January when they will be electing the President and Members of Parliament.        

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