Vote of No Confidence
SOURCE: The Monitor
By Benon Herbert Oluka
Kampala — Electoral irregularities and malpractices on an unprecedented scale yesterday forced the National Resistance Movement (NRM) to suspend primary elections for the party's parliamentary and local council flag bearers in nearly every corner of the country.
The widespread indiscretions, which included outright attempts to stuff ballot boxes with thousands of pre-ticked votes, sparked off violent clashes in some parts of the country, which, though not extensive to the scale of those witnessed during elections for NRM district chairpersons, angered several party faithful enough to accuse their leadership of gross incompetence.
Around the country, party members reeling at the extent of malpractices also accused the NRM electoral commission of delivering voting materials late, distributing flawed voters' registers with missing names, swapping voters' registers belonging to different constituencies and failure to prevent vote rigging.
Among the districts where elections in some constituencies were suspended over irregularities are Fort Portal, Kasese, Mbarara, Bundibugyo, Bushenyi, Kamwenge, Isingiro, Kabale, Ntungamo, Kiruhura, Ibanda, Rukungiri and parts of Kanungu in western Uganda; Mbale, Kapchorwa, Sironko, Manafwa, Busia, Butaleja, Kamuli, Bulambuli, Serere, Abim, Iganga and Nakapiripirit in the east; Arua and Moyo in the north-west; as well as Kampala, Mukono, Entebbe, Wakiso and Rakai in central. In Sembabule, voting did not take place after ballot papers mysteriously went missing.
Over 100 arrested
By press time last night, police had arrested about 100 NRM members in different parts of the country, including eight soldiers in Kabale District and students from a secondary school belonging to a contestant from Lwengo District, for allegedly attempting to vote illegally and masterminding some of the violence.
Deputy ministers Simon Ejua (state for transport) and Richard Nduhuura (state for health, general duties) and Dorothy Hyuha (Minister without Portfolia) were also accused of possessing already ticked papers and attempting to stuff them in the ballot boxes in their respective constituencies. Mr Ejua survived being lynched by supporters of his opponents.
The NRM primaries also had their fair share of alleged voter intimidation and harassment. In Mbale and Kibuku, police arrested atleast 15 people who were armed with sticks, pangas and guns at night that they were allegedly using to intimidate, harass and beat up opponents of Bunghoko South MP Michael Werikhe and MP Saleh Kamba respectively.
In Busoga region, Busiki County MP Musa Mukose Mutabaali was pelted with stones. Mr Mutabaali, who was injured and his car damaged, blamed the attack on supporters of his opponents. Another aspirant, Ms Charity Namuwoza, who is contesting for the Namutumba District Woman MP seat, was admitted to Iganga Hospital after a midnight attack by a yet-to-be-identified group.
In Rubaga North, former MP Tom Kayongo was roughed up by voters who accused him of tampering with the poll process. The numerous illegalities forced many party leaders to concede that the NRM had reached a new low. In Mbale, LC 5 chairman Bernard Mujasi told the press that the incidents point to major internal problems within the ruling party because it has failed to lead by example. "Where voting materials are inadequate and ballot papers are already in the streets, we should not deceive ourselves that we have democracy," he said.
Vice President Gilbert Bukenya also weighed in after casting his vote at Nagulu polling station in Kakiri Sub-county, accusing the Mbabazi-led party leadership of incompetence.
Prof. Bukenya, who is vying for the position of party general secretary against Security Minister Amama Mbabazi, said, "You can imagine it is 12p.m. and most people have not started voting because materials never arrived on time. These are serious organisational problems." "In some places in my constituency there was no voters' register. These are anomalies that could have been solved if the secretariat was strong," he added.
Mr Mbabazi, who is contesting to be the NRM flag bearer in the parliamentary elections to represent Kinkizi West constituency in Kanungu District, was not available to comment. However, the NRM electoral commissioner, Ms Lydia Wanyoto, yesterday admitted that administrative problems had hampered the voting exercise. She, however, said the party was working on quick solutions to the problem. "It is a challenge for all of us," admitted Ms Wanyoto. "We are getting reports that ballot papers are not enough and alleged ballot theft. We shall meet to see what to do after receiving all the complaints."
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