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How NUP lost speaker elections even with majority councilors

NUP Secretary General Lewis Rubongoya says they have started carrying out investigations to establish the facts on speaker elections and severe disciplinary actions will be taken upon those found guilty of corruption. Photo via @DavidLRubongoya

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Despite having super-majorities in urban councils, the National Unity Platform-NUP party lost a couple of speakership and deputy speaker seats to independent candidates or those of the ruling National Resistance Movement-NRM in polls held this week.

In Lubaga division, the NUP candidate Rehema Fugge was defeated by the NRM candidate Twaha Mayanja, in a council where NUP has 64 councillors elected on its ticket against the 11 members of the NRM. The story was the same in other areas like Makindye and Kampala Central, forcing enraged NUP supporters to take to social media to show their displeasure, accusing their leaders of betraying the struggle.

But this outcome was not surprising. While the party carried out primaries to get local government speakers last week, chaos broke out at the party headquarters after the results of the vote were declared. Supporters accused councillors of accepting bribes to influence their voting decisions.

Led by renowned NUP activist Sauda Madada, supporters said it was unacceptable to elect leaders who are NUP in name only. They said such positions should be taken over by party zealots who have been in the trenches with their President Kyagulanyi Robert Ssentamu as he crisscrossed the country looking for votes, and in the process braving the brunt of state brutality.

‘How can you give the card to known NRM supporters and leave the foot soldiers. These are the people we have been with in the struggle and it should be them to be given leadership positions,’ a teary Madada shouted to the Election Management Committee led by the former Bugweri Woman MP contestant Mercy Walukamba.

The issue of bribery was also hinted at by Kyagulanyi during his unscheduled address to the councillors before they cast their vote. One of his handlers who talked to URN then said he had thought his address would change people’s minds. ‘He wasn’t supposed to speak but he thought if the councillors heard from him, they would do the right thing. But he was disappointed that they elected people because they had paid them,’ the handler said.

But away from the internal squabbles, money was also cited in the final elections that took place this week. Two councillors who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity confirmed that indeed they had been influenced to vote the way they did. ‘It’s very hard to win an electoral college vote if you don’t have money. You really should forgive councillors because there are a few people who can turn down money when it’s offered,’ one councillor from Kawempe said.

Another from Makindye added that even the lack of transparency during the identification of candidates for the party in the general election also has an influence on how people behave now. ‘Many of those people blaming us have nothing to tell us because they are part of the problem. They extorted money from people before they gave them cards. If they are turning out to be corrupt, they shouldn’t blame them,’ the councillor who asked not to be named said.

But Mercy Walukamba challenged anyone who gave her money to come out publicly and say it. She however said it’s hard to vouch for other members of her Commission if they too are as clean as herself.

On why they lost seats yet they have commanding majorities in councils, Walukamba attributed it to infighting within the party. She added that they have also heard of allegations of money exchanging hands.

Lewis Rubongoya, the Secretary General of NUP said it wouldn’t be surprising if money played a big role in their defeat. Rubongoya said that although their party aims at having a cleanup of the corruption mess that they say has characterized the NRM government, they can’t do so overnight.

He however said they have started carrying out investigations to establish the facts and if anybody is caught on the wrong side, severe disciplinary actions are going to be taken against them.

This is not the first time that NUP leaders are accused of taking money to vote in a certain direction. During the election of the speaker and deputy speaker of parliament, it was said that some MPs belonging to the nascent party were given between one and three million Shillings to vote for particular candidates. But not withstanding all this, Rubongoya says their party remains the most viable option to replace NRM.

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