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NRM vs UPC: Who beats the other in vote rigging?

P. Matsiko wa Mucoori & Ongwens Kisangala

Look, we have been told a million times: President Milton Obote rigged the 1980 elections. True, it happened. There is credible information of various forms of election irregularities orchestrated by Obote’s Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) in diverse places across the country. The rigging included gerrymandering  that is subdividing constituencies in areas where UPC was perceived to be popular so as to have many MPs, military men forcing voters to vote UPC, security personnel blocking rival candidates from going for nomination etc. The list is endless.

However, what is more depressing is that the National Resistance Movement (NRM) which said it went to the bush to get a cure for election rigging, has turned itself into the lead vote-stealing monster.

On February 6, 1981, President Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA) rebels left for the bush ostensibly to fight and establish a government that would bring democracy and ensure free and fair elections in Uganda. When they captured power in 1986, Ugandans naively believed that the cure for election rigging had come. But please wait. Most revolutions never deliver democracy. In fact they end up becoming the same or worse than the tyrants they removed.

Like in Russia, the NRM removed Obote purportedly for election rigging but it turned into a worse election fraudster. The NRM has transformed from an ardent critic of election rigging in 1980 to a clinical and ruthless election fraudster today.In Arthur Koestler’s Darkness At Noon, a revolution, like that of NRM, occurred in Russia to remove the Tzar (authoritarian monarch). Russians celebrated. But soon the new liberators turned the revolution into a similar totalitarian regime they had removed. Mr Rubashov, the main character in the novel and former head of the revolution’s commissariat, later says in frustration: We diagnosed the disease with microscopic exactness but whenever we applied a healing knife, a new sore developed. Literally, it means that the Rubashovs had critically examined their country’s problem and discovered it was the repressive Tzar regime. But when they waged the revolution as a cure, a new dictatorship came up instead. So the purpose of the revolution was lost.

There is uncontroverted evidence of massive election rigging by NRM since the 1996 first general elections under President Museveni’s government. The most significant ones, similar to that of 1980, are the 2001 and 2006 presidential and parliamentary elections.


On both occasions, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that candidate/President Museveni’s NRM rigged the votes. In fact not only did the court say NRM stole the elections; the judges found that NRM rigged the votes massively. What the judges did not unanimously agree on was whether, given the massive rigging, President Museveni’s election should be nullified or not. On a split decision of 3-2 (2001) and (4-3) in 2006, the judges declined to nullify the election. In the foregoing, does Museveni still have the moral ground to accuse Obote of rigging elections? I would answer with a resounding NO!

Since 2001, a total of 11 MPs from NRM (shown above), have been thrown out of Parliament by court for stealing elections. Winfred Matsiko (Rukungiri Women) lost her seat for vote rigging although her election was later allowed on appeal. Both courts confirmed the rigging but the Court of Appeal reinstated her on ground that the stolen votes would not change the final result even if they were subtracted from her total score. The convicts include Igara East MP Richard Nduhura (not in picture).

So the question is; why did NRM go to the bush to fight Obote for vote stealing? Was it to stop or perfect the election rigging? It would appear that NRM are completing Obote/UPC’s unfinished business.  Â

They went to the bush to fight against corruption. Now they have introduced institutionalised and state-backed corruption which they justify because “they fought for us.” President Meseveni, previously a top anti-corruption crusader, has shifted goal posts. He now says corruption is not bad because the thieves re-invest their loot in Uganda, not abroad. What a revolutionary! He argues, erroneously, that these ill-gotten investments will create employment for Ugandans. Would Museveni, for instance, forgive a person who has stolen a cow from his Rwakitura or Kisozi farm just because that thief will employ the villagers on his (the thief’s) banana plantation?

The NRM claims it went to the bush so that Ugandans can speak out freely. But today if you are not in NRM, you cannot speak out freely as a group at a public forum without being brutalised or clobbered by police and other security operatives. NRM’s freedom is like a loan. You must keep paying interest of loyalty to the creditor (NRM). The day you default (stop supporting NRM), the loan (freedom) is recovered from you. Like what befalls all loan defaulters, highhandedness of unimaginable proportions is unleashed on you.

In short, the freedom they tell us is only for supporting NRM, but not to oppose it.  If you look at what has happened to Maj. Gen. David Tinyefuza (1997), Brig. Henry Tumukunde (2005), Col. Kizza Besigye (since 2001) and Joy Kabatsi in 2006 and this month, you will have no illusion that freedom under NRM is borrowed and therefore can be withdrawn as and when the creditor (NRM) decides.

Again the question comes back: what took the NRM to the bush? Why did the NRM condemn UPC for state-inspired election violence?

When you look at the election violence in Kanungu, Rukungiri, Mbale, Mbarara, Ibanda and various parts in Buganda and Kampala in 2001 and 2006, you don’t need further proof that the purpose of the NRM revolution has been fatally defeated.

State-inspired violence is the same whether under Amin, Obote or Museveni. Bring out the difference and we will give you the similarities. If you supported Amin or UPC, you would have be at peace. But if you opposed them you would be treated like the NRM opponents are treated today.

At least Obote and Amin were honest. They never pretended about their authoritarianism. Obote created the pigeon-hole constitution in 1967, Amin declared military rule in 1971. There was no pretence at all. But Museveni pretended to be a democrat and stampeded the whole country into a long and expensive constitution making process for about five years between 1990 and 1995. Then he changed the constitution in 2005 by bribing MPs to remove the two-term limit to the presidency when he realised he was the only Ugandan disqualified to stand for presidency under the provisions of the constitution.

So why did Museveni waste taxpayer’s money in making a constitution well knowing he would change as and when he wished?

We can bet this constitution will change as many times as Museveni wishes. When he realises he may not attain the 50 percent vote required of a candidate to win the presidency, he will have that provision changed too, so that any candidate with the highest vote (be it 32 per cent) can become president. When he turns 75 years and is still interested in power, as I strongly believe, the provision on the age limit for the presidency too will be changed to allow him stand again. In a few years to come we shall have no constitution but a political handbook that passes for a constitution.

The sum of all this is that NRM did not go to the bush to fight Obote’s wrongs; it went there to fight for Obote’s office. The country should be left under no illusion that Uganda got wrong liberators in 1986. We sent a wrong dog to hunt. It killed the animal and decided to eat the carcass all alone. Any attempt by others to have a share of the hunted animal is met by unequalled ruthlessness and vengeance. Next time, before you hang UPC for political crimes, take a look at NRM and Museveni. Probably you will withdraw your noose.


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