President Yoweri Museveni has defended the holding of campaigns on radios, saying they will be more effective because politicians will reach out to more people than they would have reached through physical rallies.
“When you speak on radio, you reach out to more people compared to campaigning before the masses physically. For example, the number of constituencies during the last campaigns (in 2016) was 296 and I would cover four constituencies per day. These constituencies have four subcounties each normally. But I could not cover all of them.
“I would address one subcounty and bring delegates from the other remaining three to address them. So, I would not reach all my people. But you can reach more people on radio when the Electoral Commission (EC) allocates politicians time, especially in the evening when people are at home,” he explained.
To drive his point home, Museveni used the analogy of Christians who have never met Jesus Christ physically but believe in Him through reading the Bible.
“I am a Christian but I have never met Jesus. But I read the Bible and get the message,” he said, before citing elections in South Korea and Poland that have taken place without politicians holding rallies.
For lower level elections, Museveni hinted at the possibility of procuring megaphones, which politicians can use as they move through villages to canvass for votes.
Museveni, who was speaking during an interview on UBC TV on Thursday evening, warned Ugandans against reckless behaviour as the country battles with COVID-19.
Much as some sectors such as tourism, education institutions and hotels suffered when a lockdown was imposed, the President said the Government’s ultimate goal was to protect lives.
“The problem is that many people compare the incomparable. They compare life with business and convenience, but for me, I value life first,” Museveni said
The President said the Government would continue analysing the situation to see what could be resumed safely, citing re-opening the airport for special categories of people such as tourists.
“They can, for instance, come into the country, use dedicated vehicles that take them to the parks; they do not mix with the people and stay in dedicated hotels,” he said.
For now, Museveni said, the Government will allow medical students and nurses in their final year to sit for exams while maintaining social distance because they help in treating patients in hospitals countrywide during their internship training.
He said the fact that people recover from the virus when they get treatment gives hope that Uganda could soon come up with a vaccine, adding that Uganda is among countries working hard to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Museveni explained that he does not support the idea of declaring a state of emergency in order to postpone elections, arguing that, “we were balancing problems but we thought the problem of not voting was worse”.
Fight against tribalism
The President warned Ugandans to desist from nurturing sectarian and tribal tendencies, saying those who harbour such tendencies would be crushed.
“I am against politics of identity such as having parties based on tribes and religion. I preach prosperity for all. We need each other to prosper.
If I stood here and said ‘we the Banyankole…’, then, I would be an enemy of the Banyankole first. Who will buy their milk, cattle or bananas because Banyankole produces similar products?
“If you hear a Muganda saying ‘we Baganda…’, such people are enemies of Baganda and Uganda. We shall crash those enemies like we have done before. So, I am ready for the battle with enemies of Uganda and Africa,” the President said.
Asked about rising cases of criminality during the lockdown, Museveni said criminals existed even before the lockdown, but criminality had been reduced with the deployment of Local Defence Unit (LDU) personnel.
“However, the LDUs made mistakes and we recalled them for further training. But when I was at Kasubi during the opening of the market, residents told me to bring back LDUs. They told me in Luganda, ‘komyawo amajje amakuumabyalo kubanga obubbi bukomyewo’ (bring back LDUs, thieves are back),” he said.
Museveni said LDUs who made mistakes were arrested and charged. He added that the force had finished undergoing a refresher training and that they will be redeployed to fight crime.
Equal media space
On opposition members complaining that they were not being given enough space to campaign on radios and televisions, Museveni dismissed the narrative as untrue. He said many media platforms were being used by opposition politicians to demonise the ruling National Resistance Movement party.
Additional reporting by NEW VISION