By Agather Atuhaire
Kasese woman MP Winnie Kiiza’s recent by-election was the latest shocker of the ruling National Resistance Movement Party. A margin of about 40,000 votes by which Kiiza beat her NRM rival Rehema Muhindo wrapped up the despair of the part which has won only one out of the seven by-elections held recently. The Independent’s Agather Atuhaire talked to her about what inspired her victory.
What do you attribute that overwhelming victory to?
I attribute it to the organisation we had on the ground, people believing us, and most importantly the power of God. Without God, we wouldn’t have made it amidst such intimidation, money and the power that we didn’t have. The whole country came in led by the President with a lot of vigour but no one can ever underestimate people power. I salute the people of Kasese.
What did you expect from this by election? Were you assured of this victory?
I expected to win but not with such a big margin. My faith was a bit shaken when the state came in with all its machinery but I saw the people persevering. Even when they were being teargased they were ready to confront the police. I saw people’s power at its fullest.
What does this win mean for the opposition?
It means people understand our views because just a year ago, I won with a margin of 1800 votes and now it is a margin of close to 40,000. It is a message to the ruling government that things are not being done the way they should be done out there.
So what more do you have to do apart from that landslide victory to be gazetted? What ritual are you yet to fulfil?
Well, the intimidation continued. When they failed to intimidate the people they decided to intimidate the Electoral Commission. Two days after I had been declared, the returning officer was arrested, they took all the documents from his office and therefore there was nothing to show my victory.
He was arrested with all the documents but police turned around and said they did not take any documents from him. But they took these documents and people that were there can attest to that because it was in broad day light.
What do you have to say about our electoral body? Do you think it has any credibility to manage another election?
They are being taken to court all the time and the only thing that keeps manifesting is that the Electoral Commission has failed to manage the elections. I think the people are overpowering the Electoral Commission. As the opposition we have told the appointing authority to bring on board an electoral body that the people are going to believe in, a commission that conforms to a multi party dispensation. But all we are seeing is a partisan Electoral Commission appointed by the president. We don’t have faith in this Electoral Commission. We believe it is the reason this government is still in power.
I have heard some opposition members say that about your particular by election there weren’t necessarily irregularities but it was NRM witch-hunting you.
This bi-election was not about Winnie but the Electoral Commission. I was told EC failed to defend itself. But it could also be possible that these concerned bodies are conniving to fight the opposition. Because police is a government arm, EC is a government arm, court is another government arm and now they are fighting Winnie who is a member of the opposition. Anyone would be right to think they are playing their games to muzzle the opposition. How does police take EC to court, a court that is evidently pro-government and then you think there is going to be a fair hearing? And in the end it is me a member of the opposition who did not participate in any fraud that is forced to dance to their music.
About your own party (FDC), how ready is it for the upcoming presidential elections?
We have put everything in place to ensure a free and fair election. It is our internal democracy; our constitution provides that any leader must serve not more than two terms.
Do you think FDC is ready for another leader?
Whether we liked Besigye or not the constitution does not allow us to have him again. So we are definitely ready for another leader.
What about the bickering we have seen in the party lately. They started with members of the shadow cabinet resigning and accusing Mafabi of being domineering and the latest has been about Muntu being a westerner and that you can’t be led by another westerner. Don’t you think that is spoiling your image and your chances as a leading opposition party?
When you are in a campaign anything can come up. Of course those who are not for Muntu will say whatever they want including those sentiments of region. I believe in an individual. All we need is a capable party president irrespective of whichever region he comes from. I call upon all of us members of FDC that we treat these as an in house exercise and we should not tear ourselves apart because we shall still remain members of the same family.
Where do you see the opposition, particularly FDC by the end of this term? Do you think that it will have gotten an upper hand by the 2016 general elections?
We have always had an upper hand but we have been dealing with a regime that is only known for rigging elections. This was very evident in the by-election we had in Kasese. A lot of money was pushed in to buy voters. Fortunately the people said no. And I am sure Ugandans are waking up. They will eat that money but still cast their vote the way they want. That is why I hope that in the next elections we should be heading for a system that will see the ruling government packing.