MAY 26, 2010: Fake Presiding Officer Stuns Voters

Fake Presiding Officer Stuns Voters
SOURCE: The Monitor
By Mercy Nalugo, Fred Muzaale and Herbert Muggaga
Mukono North — Voters at Nkuzannyana polling station in Ssonde, Seeta, Mukono District woke up as early as 7am yesterday anxious to cast their ballots in the Mukono North by-election, which some of them did.

One or two hours after, however, they were surprised to be told that the presiding officer manning the post where they had voted was, in fact, an impostor.

The genuine presiding officer, Ms Edith Auma, according to Kampala Central MP, Mr Erias Lukwago, seemed puzzled when she got to her assigned station and found another person, one Francis Ssonko, conducting the elections with polling materials whose source was not clear. This was one of a number of curious incidents which threatened to mar what observers say was a generally calm exercise yesterday.

Initial reports had suggested that Mr Ssonko had been detained by the Police but Daily Monitor's attempts to clarify the matter were not entirely successful.

"I didn't go to Ssonde and in case anybody was arrested there I am not aware," Mr Grace Turyagumanawe, the police officer in charge of operations, told Daily Monitor.

Journalists would only learn later that Ms Auma was also offered a ballot box by the EC officials different from the one she had actually signed for earlier. The MP said when they brought the Ssonko affair to the attention of Mr Turyagumanawe, "he did not take action".

"We then reported this matter to the parish supervisor hoping they would take action but they did not. Instead, they transferred him (Mr Ssonko) to another polling station in Misindye village also in Goma Sub-county. We complained to Commissioner Joseph Biribonwa to no avail," Mr Lukwago added. But EC chief Badru Kiggundu dismissed claims that the elections were marred by electoral malpractices when this and other incidents were pointed out to him. He told this newspaper that the Ssonko incident "was an isolated case".

In another case, a man, identified as David Munale, whose documents indicated he was a businessman in Kampala, was arrested at Kigombya polling station with more than 10 voters' cards preparing to give them to some people who were not residents of Mukono. "They were prepared to rig the whole process but we have put up a spirited fight to foil their efforts," said Mr Lukwago, who was in charge of guarding Ms Nambooze's votes in Goma Sub-county.

He claimed that at Papaki polling station, the presiding officer had attempted to fill in the results declaration form as early as 11am in a church. The official, however, was reportedly blocked from doing so by angry voters.