Catholic Bishops in Uganda have denounced violence and brutality suffered by citizens at the hands of security agencies and appealed for calm ahead of the 2021 elections due next week.
The bishops’ concerns were contained in the pastoral letter on the 2021 General Election presented by the chairman of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, Bishop Joseph Anthony Zziwa, during a media briefing at the Nsambya Catholic Secretariat in Kampala.
In the 39-page pastoral letter, which doubles as New Year message, the bishops observed that amid political campaigns a number of challenges have already emerged which require urgent attention.
On behalf of other Bishops, Zziwa cautioned the Police Force against unnecessarily inviting the military in the bid to ensure a secure election process in the country, which he said has often resulted into fatalities.
He said police should always invite the military as the last resort given the army’s limited experience in crowd management. “The military is trained for war not crowd control…. “We as shepherds of the flock, cannot look aside as society slides into injustice and violence,” Bishop Zziwa said.
“The police should be seen to be in-charge of all security agencies involved in the electoral process and take full responsibility for any unprofessional conduct notwithstanding individual liabilities under relevant laws,” bishop Zziwa said.
He also called for swift action against errant security officers and investigations into incidences of death and injuries caused by security as means of restoring public confidence in the security organs.
The members of the clergy added that their intervention does not seek to usurp duties of ‘others.’
The clergy challenged the Electoral Commission to ensure confidence of all by engaging all political players on all matters likely to affect the credibility of the process and the common good.
” We want journalists to be protected and respected because they play an important role in the society. However, they should also fulfil their mandate with due fairness without inciting violence” Zziwa added. Several journalists have sustained serious injuries and others harrassed by security personnel especially those covering political campaigns.
“It is unfortunate that right from the first elections in 1961, the credibility of our electoral management bodies has been doubted by some stakeholders. In some cases, those who disagreed with the outcomes of polls waged costly wars,” the bishops said.
In the pastoral letter, the bishops also appealed to candidates and voters to desist from use of hate speech and behavior that fuel violence. They also called on registered voters to turn up on voting days and reject bribes as well as empty promises meant to compromise their constitutional right to vote.