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Uganda Presidential Candidates Officially Begin Campaign Monday

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - Uganda opposition leaders, from left to right: Forum for Democratic Change, Dr. Kizza Besigye, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Democratic Party President Norber Mao meeting at the Democratic Alliance office in Kampala, Sept. 18, 2015.

FILE - Uganda opposition leaders, from left to right: Forum for Democratic Change, Dr. Kizza Besigye, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Democratic Party President Norber Mao meeting at the Democratic Alliance office in Kampala, Sept. 18, 2015.

Official campaigning for Uganda’s presidential election begins Monday, as candidates including incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, former Prime Minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi and main opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye complete establishing their campaign teams.

The presidential campaign will end February 16, according to Uganda's Electoral Commission.

The electoral commission has warned all of the eight presidential candidates to desist from using ethnic, religious or divisive language that could create tension and possible violence during their campaigns.

FILE - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni speaks to reporters at the Akasaka Palace state guesthouse in Tokyo, Sept. 12, 2015.

FILE - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni speaks to reporters at the Akasaka Palace state guesthouse in Tokyo, Sept. 12, 2015.

The electoral body says it is important that the politicians should not divide Ugandans along “tribal or religious” lines adding that the campaigns should be devoid of violence.

Officials of the electoral commission say they are implementing measures to ensure the presidential poll will be free, fair and transparent.

FILE - A supporter of Uganda's former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi wrestles with the gun of a policeman, as riot police disperse a gathering in Jinja town in eastern Uganda, Sept. 10, 2015.

FILE - A supporter of Uganda's former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi wrestles with the gun of a policeman, as riot police disperse a gathering in Jinja town in eastern Uganda, Sept. 10, 2015.

Jotham Taremwa, electoral commission spokesman, says the electoral body signed a memorandum of understanding with the political parties to stick to the stipulations in the agreement.

This, Taremwa says forms part of the process to ensure an equal playing field in the run up to the presidential vote.

“We have harmonized the campaign program for the eight candidates in the race, and we signed a memorandum of understanding with all those eight candidates. We expect everybody to keep to the harmonized and approved campaign program by the electoral commission,” said Taremwa. "Should there be any change on the part of the candidate schedule that must be communicated to the electoral commission before the candidates effect it. These campaigns should be ending at 6:00 pm Uganda time everyday, including the current president who is also in the race. So, we expect that legal requirement to be observed and complied with.”

He says the electoral commission is working with the security organizations to enforce the agreement the parties signed before the official campaign period.

But opposition groups have often accused the state security agencies of bias and doing the bidding of President Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). They said their supporters face violent crackdowns, while NRM supporters are not disturbed.

Taremwa disagreed.

“That is not correct. It is an allegation, and if anyone has any complaints in respect to that the commission is always there to address those complaints. But for now I will say that is not correct [and that] it is a mere allegation,” he said.

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