By Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi
NRM still strong in Luwero
Over a week after the Luwero district Woman MP by-election was concluded, the Electoral Commission had not gazetted DP’s Brenda Nabukenya, who had been declared winner with 14,945 votes against 14,915 for NRM’s Rebecca Nalwanga. The Independent’s Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi talked to Nalwanga, the complainant against Nabukenya’s declared victory, and below are excerpts.
A week after the by-election, the winner hasn’t been gazetted. What is your take on all this?
There is no winner yet because the process was not concluded. The Electoral Commission has let us down.
Once a candidate is not satisfied after results are declared showing that the winning candidate has got a difference of not more than 50 votes, the Electoral Commission has an obligation to recount the votes. But when I requested for a recount following this law, my right as a candidate was not respected. A few hours after Mr. (Peter) Kasozi (the Returning Officer) declared what he said were the final results, we applied for a recount because we were sure there had been irregularities in the process. Whereas he set the recount time for 9.00am on Thursday (Nov.24), he entered the hall to start the recount at 1.30pm. What caused the delay? How did he expect the recount to be finished within the remaining few hours? When the boxes were brought to start the recount, they were 348 yet we have only 340 polling stations in Luwero. Where did the extra eight boxes come from? Mr Kasozi explained that the Electoral Commission sometimes gives more boxes for unused items. Why were the extra votes then being paraded for the recount? In total, there were 21 ballot boxes with their seals tampered with. Mr Kasozi himself collected the boxes and had the keys to the room where the boxes were kept. So who tampered with the seals of the boxes? On the day of the recount Mr. Kasozi pulled the key to the store from his pocket. Another thing; the Electoral Commission didn’t have guidelines for the recount as required by the law. Mr Kasozi was relying on notes delivered by Justice Kibuuka Musoke in a workshop. How could the Electoral Commission not have its own guidelines as required by law? We believe all these problems were caused deliberately to frustrate the recount.
So what made you suspect that your votes hadn’t been counted properly in the first place?
We got the information; we had agents all over. There were DP youth, many of them from Kampala, who we have information mixed up the whole process. By 2.00pm on voting day, well before the voting stopped, we have information they had already had some declaration forms signed. So the results that were declared were not at all a true picture of what happened. People keep saying NRM rigs elections but they will be surprised that in Luwero in fact it was the other way round.
You say the process wasn’t concluded, what remedies have you sought?
You must have heard that the Returning Officer has already been taken to court. We are waiting for what will come from there.
But from what I know, the charges brought against Mr. Kasozi are against him as an individual in a criminal case which cannot lead to a reversal of the process. Are you filing a petition in this matter?
As an individual no, but I know the party is consulting about it.
But the alleged manipulation of results aside, don’t you think we are beginning to see the opposition making serious inroads into Luweero, formerly seen as an NRM stronghold?
I don’t think so. If the process had been fair, you would have seen that NRM would win easily. The other thing is that the period of the election was tricky. You know this is a rainy season and so many of our people were busy in their gardens. Also, this being a by-election, some people didn’t even know the election was taking place. This therefore led to low voter turnout. About 46,000 voters, who are about 20 percent of the total registered voters, turned up for the by-election. This is the number of votes I got alone in the general election.
Can we say all the voters who stayed away were yours? How come your major opponent managed to mobilise her voters?
That has a lot to do with where the voters live. According to the results, you find that many of those who voted for DP were in semi-urban areas, especially Kasana, Luwero and Wobulenzi – the towns along the main road. Many of our voters, who live in villages, didn’t turn up because of the reasons I have already given. But if the election was repeated, you would see that what is being said that NRM support in Luwero has reduced is wrong.
It has also come out that the loss was due to internal wrangles within the NRM
Don’t talk about loss yet, I have already told you the process was not concluded. But it is true there are some people who claim to be NRM that were supporting DP and were seen celebrating with DP supporters. Some of them had personal reasons. One of them is the Luwero Town Council NRM chairperson called Ssebyala. We call them indisciplined chaps.
In that case you have many ‘indisciplined chaps’ in your party these days
(Laughs) you may say so.
Some people have blamed the poor performance of the NRM on the fact that the secretary general (Amama Mbabazi) is having problems these days
I don’t want to share this view. Even if the secretary general is having personal problems, the party is bigger than him and there are other people to do whatever he would have done.
But some NRM members say there wasn’t enough facilitation for mobilisation from the headquarters?
I believe there was reasonable facilitation. In any case, I don’t think money is the only important factor in winning an election.