The Catholic Bishops Conference in Uganda has drawn attention to anomalies that could call into question the legitimacy and credibility of the electoral process and outcomes of the polls if not addressed urgently.
The prelates have penned a pastoral letter highlighting the issues at stake and warning about the likely mismanagement of election results, militarization of the electoral process, and the prevailing irregularities including disenfranchisement, increasing militarization and commercialization of the election.
Launching the letter at the Catholic Secretariat in Nsambya, Conference’s chairperson Bishop Joseph Anthony Zziwa said that like prophets, they saw it important to speak up and guide both the rulers and subjects at a time when the country seems to be on tenterhooks as everyone is not certain about the future as the polls draw close.
In the document which is going to be widely circulated and read to the Catholic faithful in their respective worship places during the remaining days to the election, the bishops warn that there is increasing intolerance which has seen several scuffles among and within the political grouping.
To them, the ever-growing intolerance which has been haunting the country from years after independence has led to other vices including intimidation and use of abusive and derogatory language all of which are currently widely experienced.
Whereas president Yoweri Museveni has already deployed heavily armed soldiers on the streets of several cities and townships, the conference advises that government should desist from deploying the military as the first line of law enforcement on polling day. They also call that the officers on duty exercise considerable restraint and avoid using lethal force on unarmed civilians.
The bishops are particularly alarmed by the targeted attacks on journalists by security officers, saying no amount of justification can explain the assault on the “eyes, nose and ears” of the people and that failure to deal decisively with the officers may herald the beginning of the descend into anarchy in the land.
On the need to balance between the health of the citizenry and right to vote, the prelates note that the vigor put in enforcing covid-19 SOPs within the political environment than other crowded places like markets give an impression that SOPs are just a ploy to curtail political activities which must be condemned in the last days of the campaign and on the election day.
Furthermore, the men of God warn the electoral commission to be very careful while handling the election results as any loopholes might lead the country into a cycle of post-election violence as seen in the past which saw bloodshed in the country.
Too the bishops, any acts of tampering with results through forgery and ballot stuffing remain one of the biggest challenges of several elections and also a key driver of election-related violence.
For the post-election process, the catholic church has called for the initiation of a national dialogue and reconciliation regardless of who the winner will be. This according to them will allow Ugandans to chart the future of their country.