By Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi
Rtd Col. Dr Kizza Besigye was the presidential candidate for the Interparty Cooperation, a grouping of some opposition parties in the Feb. 18 election. He is contesting the outcome of the election. The Independent’s Eriasa Mukiibi spoke to him
You have said the election was stolen. Do you have any finer details to back that up?
It is common knowledge that the election was comprehensively and systematically stolen. We are carrying out an analysis of what happened all over the country but the report is not yet ready.
However, we know that the election was stolen long before voting day. It began with the Electoral Commission. The problem is not only with the commissioners. The secretary, who heads the administration at the commission and the entire commission staff both at the headquarters and district level is made up of intelligence people carefully selected to carry out rigging.
The second area where rigging took place is the voters register. It was carefully and systemically bloated. Even if we had achieved 100 percent registration, which is impossible, we still couldn’t have close to 14 million voters in a population of 30 million. The register was carefully designed to include underage voters and various cases of multiple registration.
There was a careful process to sort out those who should vote and many people were left out. Many of our agents discovered at polling stations that the register the Electoral Commission had given us was entirely different from the one the Presiding Officers had.
To help us make an assessment of how widespread this problem was, have you come up with the number of names that were on the register you were given but were missing on the one the Presiding Officers had?
Our agents weren’t vigilant enough to do that.
You were commenting with the malpractices…
The commission said we would go to the polls without any form of voter identification. They clearly knew that on the register were names with missing pictures and others with pictures which are not recognisable. All these things had been done deliberately to assist rigging. Ballot stuffing was also widespread across the country, especially around the cattle corridor districts of Mubende, Nakaseke, Nakasongola and others.
But probably the greatest damage was done by bribery. When I escorted Winnie (Byanyima) to vote in Mbarara, we found a Local Defence Unit (LDU) officer who was calling someone to help him vote. “Can’t you vote for yourself?” we asked him. He told us in English that he couldn’t read (laughs). Someone had to vote for him to ensure that he votes as he had been bribed to do. There was a lot of money even on polling day that was being given out.
In your assessment, how big was the problem of intimidation?
Wherever we passed, we were told that people were being threatened with war if they voted for me. On voting day, there was a group of electoral police officers (polling constables) who were standing too close to the basin where the voters were making their choices. Many voters who had been bribed were also intimidated that these police officers were watching the way they were voting. So they actually voted for (President) Museveni. These police officers don’t even report to the Inspector General of Police and most of them were carefully selected to abet rigging.
What about results declaration?
There was a very big problem there too. Many of our agents were detained until polling ended at five and others were bribed. Many of our agents who stayed on the polling stations were denied copies of declaration forms. At some polling stations they declared one result but wrote a different one on the declaration forms. There is a polling station in Mutundwe in Wakiso district where I got I think 194 votes and Museveni got I think 123 votes. These results were declared at the polling station but on the declaration form I was given 4 votes. Because our agent refused to sign the declaration forms, he was denied a copy.
Since 2000 when you declared you would stand against President Museveni, the attention of the intelligence services and President Museveni has been on you almost every single day. Do you ever feel like abandoning the struggle and go home?
No. of course that is a personal choice. I cherish being free in a free country. It is a cause which I am willing to fight for to death. I will live and die here and will never stop fighting dictatorship. This is a choice I made in 1981 when I left a comfortable job in Nairobi to go to the bush.
Isn’t it too frustrating to see some of your colleagues in the struggle crossing to the ruling party?
People have different thresholds of resistance (so) you always have to expect crossings. The good thing is that those who believe in compromising others using money cannot succeed in bribing all Ugandans permanently. They can only do so for a limited time.