Hoima’s violent fiasco of a by-election is a tiny foretaste of 2021, observers
By Charles Kamya Ssentamu
The violence and rigging that characterised the just concluded Hoima Woman MP by-elections, on September 26, could as well have been a dress rehearsal of how Uganda’s longtime ruler Yoweri Museveni plans to steal yet another election come 2021.
Several people including journalists’ and opposition polling agents were arrested and detained overnight on the eve of polling day while the area police commander Christopher Katumba Kiggundu who had restrained his officers from interfering with the campaigns, was transferred a few hours to the polls.
Although his transfer came in a reshuffle involving 66 police officers, analysts believe he was the target and the rest were just used to cover up his untimely transfer.
Relatively small, with just 166 polling stations, Hoima District became a battle ground as a united opposition rallied behind Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate Asanasi Nyakato who was running against the ruling National Resistance Movement’s Harriet Busingye.
The show of unity between the FDC, and the People Power pressure group led by Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine frightened Museveni into deploying the military in the area, intimidating rural voters who were not used to such shows of force. Museveni read the tealeaves and saw that a victory for Nyakato could only bode very bad things for him and his NRM.
It would be a demonstration of the possibilities when the opposition puts their differences aside and work as one. An opposition in which People Power, FDC and others speak with one voice was something to be nipped in the bud; clobbered with maximum state brutality!
In addition to the violent suppression of the FDC’s voters other malpractices, such as election materials being delivered late at polling stations that were less than 20 kilometers away from district headquarters fuelled suspicion. There were images of vehicles from State House delivering stuffed ballots for Busingye. There were thuggish looking SFC troops intimidating, and beating up people.
In short it was a diseased sausage of a vote, and Ugandans have been given a tiny foretaste of what Museveni has in store for them come 2021.
Busingye was announced winner deep in the night, allegedly with 33,301 votes against Nyakato’s supposed 28,789. The result was immediately rejected by the opposition whose leadership cited violence, intimidation, ballot stuffing and all forms of blatant cheating.
“As I did mention a few days ago, security forces have for these past days deployed in Hoima, not to keep law and order but to help Museveni and his regime rig this election,” said People Power leader Robert Kyagulanyi, MP aka Bobi Wine. “So many of our candidate’s supporters and agents were arrested,” he revealed. “Many were brutalized. Some of them are held in detention centres outside Hoima. On the day of voting, many were brutally chased away from polling stations. The tally center was raided,” the MP further disclosed in a statement.
Bobi Wine’s claims were vindicated by the near absence of celebration of victory by Busingye’s camp. Public evidence of the state’s rigging the vote for the NRM candidate was circulating on the form of videos showing various instances of violence. In one of the videos that went viral, Hoima District Deputy Resident Commissioner Richard Tabaro is seen savaging a woman supporter of Nyakato.
The hulking man repeatedly rains blows on the woman with a stick as the poor woman fights back with fists and kicks. Rather than defend the woman, one of the many military police officers that were deployed throughout the district prior to polling day merely looks on.
The brave woman’s crime apparently, was to try to access a polling station in the Kigorobya sub-county where reports say ballot stuffing was taking place. In another video, the Kayunga District Chairman Moses Karangwa is inexplicably caught in a meeting at the local offices of the Electoral Commission, where he isn’t supposed to be.
In yet another video, opposition supporters are seen trying to hand over ballots that were pre-ticked in favor of the NRM candidate, but the police refuse to record the case. After vote counting, the FDC Deputy Secretary General Harold Kaija was reportedly ambushed by the military and all copies of the declaration of results forms (DR Forms) confiscated from him.
The aim of this particular crime, it was reported, was to aid falsification of the final tallies. “The excessive brutality by the military against our supporters and massive outright rigging through ballot stuffing using pre ticked ballots and falsifying results just reinforces the mockery to democracy that come with every election organized by the NRM junta,” said FDC President Patrick Amuriat in a statement.
The level of intimidation is also palpable in the ambiguity of the statement issued by the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy CCEDU, which was accredited to observe the polls.
“Although the level of vigilance was high, there is a likelihood that allegations and realities of occurrences such as circulation of pre-ticked ballot papers in favor of the NRM candidate (on polling day), arrests of agents from the opposition parties and the partisan involvement of some security agents to the point of attempting to subvert the will of the people in some areas within Hoima, affected the election and how it later turned out to be”, CCEDU Coordinator Crispin Kaheru said in a statement on Friday.
No one will be surprised to learn that the regime is already is stocking up on the paraphernalia of violence, and training the personnel to inflict it.