Prime Minister Rt Hon Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has asked Forum for Democratic Change candidate, Kizza Besigye, to tread carefully and avoid incidents that would lead to election violence.
Rugunda was on Tuesday addressing press at Uganda Media Centre in Kampala on maintaining peace, unity and security during and after 2016 elections.
“As we have said in the past, peace, security, unity and stability of our country are common goods, which we must all guard jealously irrespective of our differences,” Rugunda said.
He noted that presidential campaigns have largely remained peaceful thus far, as the candidates have traversed the country and many citizens have come out to listen to the various messages.
“This is to be applauded, celebrated and encouraged.”
Sadly, though, he noted, “it has come to our attention that some political actors including some candidates are diverting from this good trend”.
He said there was an emerging trend of fanning sectarianism through the use the media and other platforms.
“This is not only dangerous; it is also criminal,” he declared.
He appealed to all candidates and their supporters to focus more on the things that unite and build their communities and Uganda rather than dividing them.
“If those involved in trying to divide Ugandans along the above mentioned sectarian lines don’t desist, government will invoke the necessary legal machinery to investigate and prosecute them in the courts of law,” Rugunda threatened.
Turning to Besigye who is preaching defiance messages, Rugunda said government was following up reports “that a small group of the radical opposition are talking and planning violent actions during and after the election with the overall objective to disrupt social and economic activities as well as to paralyze governance”.
“As part of this dangerous plan, there is also persistent talk of “defiance” mainly at campaign rallies by some candidates.”
He said such candidates [Besigye specifically] have been stating publicly state that they will not respect any of the laws or guidelines as issued from time to time by either the Independent Electoral Commission or other responsible Government agencies.
“This, again, is unacceptable and illegal. Whatever we do must be guided by, and conform to the laws of Uganda.”
Rugunda said government had established that some of these groups, under the guise of training agents to protect their votes, are raising semi-militia groups under different code names like Power 10 (P10), Pentagon, Youth Brigade and Ki-face, among others.
“These groups, we have learnt, are being prepared to incite provocation and violent confrontations, starting on polling day until the swearing ceremony in case they lose the elections.”
Noting that election campaigns are not a licence to break the law, Rugunda said the NRM government will not standby when some elements are trying to cause violence, havoc and disrupt the peace and development in Uganda.
“We would like to let the public, including those being lured into these mischievous schemes, to know that government is closely following them.”
He added: “I, therefore, appeal our people, particularly the youth, not to be tempted into joining such groups seeking to break the law. Those who dare to join will face the full force of the law.”
He assured the international community that the NRM Government has in place sufficient measures to ensure that the forth-coming elections are held under tranquil and peaceful atmosphere.
FDC, in its response, did not buy Rugunda’s threats.
FDC spokesperson, Ssemujju Nganda, reminded Rugunda that Power 10 (P10) was not a militia group and had no plans of engaging in violence.
Ssemujju said no matter the threats by the Premier, FDC would maintain its P10 group.
“Voters at the polling station are allowed a distance of 100 meters. If the NRM are not planning to rig elections, why are they blocking public avenues aimed at monitoring polls?” Ssemujju wondered.
He said P10 was formed to monitor elections and ensure opposition votes are not stolen and hence would not disband the group until it has served its purpose.
Besigye is still traversing the country spreading defiance messages without fear or favour.
The opposition strongman has always challenged government to take him to courts of law if they think he is breaking the law.