UGANDA: CATHOLIC CHURCH RULES OUT BOYCOTTING 2016 POLLS

KAMPALA, April 18 — THE Catholic Church under its Caritas Justice and Peace Commission has partnered with Uganda’s Electoral Commission (EC) to promote peaceful, free and fair electoral process ahead of the 2016 general elections.

The Church is to use its outreach platforms to engage its followers on the importance of voting and what they are required to do to exercise their right. They intend to hold political dialogues to build bridges among various individuals and political groups at various levels.

Speaking at consultation meeting on the role of the church in the 2015/2016 electoral process at Pope Paul Memorial Hotel Rubaga, the Secretary General of Uganda Episcopal Conference, Msgr John Baptist Kauta said a peaceful process can only be achieved if government responds to challenges cited in the previous elections, to build voters’ confidence.

“EC needs to address certain issues to build confidence among the public to attract more people to vote. If not, more people are likely to reject elections,” he said.

Kauta said the church is committed to work with Caritas and EC to sensitize the public. He said shunning elections will not address people’s issues urging people to take part in the coming elections.

The opposition threatened to boycott elections if the proposed electoral reforms are implemented.

The EC commissioner in charge of Northern Uganda, Steven Ongaria, said EC will not entertain activities that would compromise free and fair elections. “That’s why we have a roadmap. Many activities like updating the voters register are ongoing to make sure that every Ugandan eligible to vote exercises their right,” he said.

He said public sensitization and awareness is still ongoing through various platforms countrywide to update them on the unfolding events.

Ongaria who was representing EC boss, Badru Kiggundu, said the Catholic Church and other religious sects have the capacity to mobilize people at their worship centers and educate them.

“The church has a wide access to the general public through outreaches. Preach reconciliation, peace, non-violence and condemn illegal practices to promote a peaceful process,” he said.

He said citizen IDs will be used in voting. “I encourage people to pick them. But even those whose particulars are in the register will be allowed to vote,” he said.

The director Caritas Justice and Peace Commission Archdiocese of Kampala, Fr. Vincent Byansi said the church has the capacity to change people’s attitude about elections. “We also intend to come up with post-election reconciliation process after elections to promote peace and co-existence,” he said.

Executive Director, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Livingstone Sewanyana cited lack of confidence in the electoral process among the public, saying a lot needs to be done.

“Government needs to pass the electoral amendments to deal with challenges like bribery and corruption,” he said. Sewanyana also noted that boycott is not a solution to change as some people are proposing.

“People should not be diverted despite loopholes in the system. They should exercise their right and continue in the system until they get what they want,” he added. He also attributed problems in the electoral process to the church, saying it had for long not played their role to sensitize people.

SOURCE: NEW VISION

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