Why experts say violence points to 2021
Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The first news of violence on Sept.04, D-Day of the ruling party NRM Primaries, came from Bukono County in Namutumba District. Unknown people had that morning killed an agent of one of the candidates, the Minister of State for Lands, Persis Namuganza. The voting in the constituency was stopped when chaos broke out.
Days before in Hoima, candidate Beatrice Wembabazi who contesting for the District Woman MP slot, suffered severe injuries in the head, chest, and stomach and was rushed to hospital in critical condition following an attack from agents of her rival, the incumbent, Harriet Businge. Wembabazi’s driver, Julius Birungi, was also beaten and injured in the head. The election was temporarily halted.
In Kassanda South constituency, clashes between incumbent MP Simeo Nsubuga and Michael Muhumuza left several people seriously injured, vehicles burned and windows smashed.
In Bushenyi four people suffered serious injuries in election-related fights between agents of Annet Katusiime Mugisha, who was contesting for the district woman MP flag and the incumbent, Minister Mary Karooro Okurut.
In Sembabule, the Woman MP Hanifa Kawooya who was battling to retain her seat was assaulted and shown on TV exposing her bruised back.
In the same area, Lwemiyaga MP, Theodore Ssekikubo was battling Joy Kabatsi, the minister of state for Transport, in a violent campaign.
Tanga Odoi, the NRM party electoral commission chairman, was helpless. He pushed the cases to the party chairman, President Yoweri Museveni. The NRM national vice-chairperson Hajji Moses Kigongo rushed to quell tempers.
“I do not want to hear of chaos and misuse of guns in Sembabule, stop shaming our party,” Kigongo reportedly told a meeting of aspirants.
Deputy Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Muzeyi Sabiiti, also rushed to the area as security was beefed up truckloads of soldiers and police arriving a day to the election.
But more big names and hotspots kept popping up. Chairman Hajj Hasan Basajjabalaba in Bushenyi, Nathan Byanyima in Bukanga, Elioda Tumwesigye and his rival Dicksons Kateshumbwa in Sheema, Molly Kamukama, Anna Ruyondo Lumumba and Jennifer Muhesi in Kazo, and the big fight; of Shartsi Musherure, the daughter of Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa and Godfrey Aine Kaguta, President Museveni’s younger brother in Mawogolo North County.
How the NRM `wins’ elections appeared finally to be confirmed. Apparently, under the NRM strategies shown by the candidates; the best way to ensure a win is by knocking names of suspected supporters of your opponent from the voter register. If they are not registered, they cannot vote.
This ploy had worked successfully in the earlier National Youth Election when many young men and women clad in the red colours of People Power and the National Unity Platform (NUP) of Kyadondo East MP, Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine showed up to vote and were told their names were not on the register. The NRM won by over 90% of the vote.
It is obvious that tinkering with the voter rolls is a favourite tactic and many candidates in the NRM primaries attempted it. But if that fails, then buying the vote is next. Numerous videos on social media showed contestants dishing out cash to peasants in long queues.
But again if money does not work, then engage violence. The best strategy here is to have those that have the “monopoly of violence”; the army or the police on your side. That apparently, is what Dickson Kateshumbwa reportedly did in Bushenyi according to Elioda Tumwesigye.
“They (Kateshumbwa’s camp) have hired goons, people sitting in Premios in army uniforms, they are the ones who want to cause chaos,” Elioda complained to journalists.
But Kateshumbwa says Elioda also had a plan (which was used by many candidates); He had hired stick-wielding goons, some from as far as Kampala.
“They (Elioda’s camp) have procured sticks to beat up people and cause violence during elections,” Kateshumbwa reportedly said.
As mayhem raged, the NRM apparatchiks went in overdrive to deny, defend, or justify election violence and intimidation, bribery, and gerrymandering.
“Those incidents are in just a few areas,” said government Spokesperson Ofwono Opondo, “we have over 60,000 polling stations are the majority are peaceful.”
Ofwono spoke as Mbale, Sembabule, Kassanda, Adjumani, Kampala, Wakiso, Mityana, Sironko, Bundibugyo, Hoima, Kiruhura, Kazo, Sheema, Bushenyi, Koboko, Kassanda, Tororo, Busia, Kakumiro and Iganga emerged as hot spot districts.,
“What violence are you talking about,” said another, “Don’t you remember what happened in the NRM primaries in 2015?”
Based on the 2015 experience, many observers and commentators were surprised at how the NRM leadership either was or acted surprised by the level of malpractice.