By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
The Speaker of Parliament Rt.Hon.Rebecca Kadaga has warned against using the COVID-19 pandemic to violate different human rights during the ongoing election campaigns.
Rebecca Kadaga made the statement during the Thursday afternoon plenary session in which legislators took to the floor to condemn arrests of different political players and subsequent violence and killings in protests across the country.
“I just want to reiterate that the COVID-19 situation should not be used to violate the human rights of the people of Uganda as it is being used in some instances to do so, this is not right,” said Kadaga.
The speaker said that the people who are incarcerated should be given access to their food, lawyers and family because this is a basic right not for negotiation.
Her remarks followed a matter of national importance raised by Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa in regard to violations of human rights of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi currently vying for the office of the president.
He said that since Kyagulanyi’s arrest on Wednesday in Luuka district and subsequent detention at Nalufenya police station in Jinja city, the police officers have denied lawyers, family members and doctors to access him. Kyagulanyi was arrested for flouting COVID-19 guidelines which require only 200 people at a campaign venue.
The Bugiri Municipality MP Basalirwa demanded that the Minister of Internal Affairs Gen. Jeje Odong comes and explains directives that police are using to deny suspects basic rights.
The lawyer added that besides Kyagulanyi, security forces also arrested Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga and others in Masaka and that their rights are equally violated since they have been denied access to their lawyers and doctors.
Basalirwa also told parliament that there is a very big dilemma the country was facing in regard to the COVID-19 directives. “It seems COVID-19 is only transmitted through political meetings. With due respect right honorable Speaker, we did attend a burial of the late Mayor of Kampala…we were there in thousands including two deputy Prime Ministers. There was no problem and that function was being manned by security…when it comes to political meetings we are told we should be 200. How do we explain that to the ordinary wananchi?” he asked.
He reiterated his earlier statement in parliament that there should either be normal election or no election. According to Basalirwa, the current limitations are not practical since there are double standards since supporters of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party hold processions under the watch of police.
Mukono South MP Johnson Ssenyonga accused police for failing to exercise judgement in arresting presidential candidate Kyagulanyi in the given circumstances. He told parliament that the arrest was not called for as well as the manner in which crowds were dispersed.
Speaker Kadaga said that it was unfortunate that the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda was not in the House to respond to the issues. She however expressed concern about the developments saying that there seems to be no coordination.