At the entrance gate of Kibuli Secondary School, on 18th January, 2021, a rowdy crowd of revelers danced and ululated to the very loud music played on phonic loudspeakers placed at the backs of pick-up trucks. Roller skaters pirouetted dangerously around the milling crowds holding mug shot banners of their candidates.
The chaotic scenes premiered the impending election of the Trade Union workers’ representatives of Parliament, one of the interest groups in the 2021-2026 General Elections.
By the gate, the security check provided by the CT – Counter Terrorism Police – was overwhelmed by the crush of the Union delegate voters. The Covid-19 SOP – standard operating procedure- of social distancing was starkly missing; and while the observance of wearing face masks was evident, the manner in which they were on display was not of masking.
With this in view, one delegate from the Plantation Union remarked: “Hooliganism has also arrived here and overwhelmed the Labour Union movement.”
This aspect of the elections was not limited to the Unions alone. As news of the manner in which the poll had been conducted all over the country became evident, it was obvious that the whole exercise lacked freedom, fairness or legitimacy. This, despite some of the election, particularly the African Union (AU), observes ratifying that the poll had met international standards.
In this regard, the most notable abstention was the United States embassy, which totally withdrew from the exercise, because the Electoral Commission (EC), limited its observance to only 15 people. Their argument was that this was a dismal number to cover the whole country composed of 34, 344 polling booths in the 146 districts.
The import of this eventually reverberated to CT Police house confinement of presidential Contestant Robert Kyagulanyi a.k.a Bobi Wine, when he criticized the conduct of the elections as being “rigged”.
Of diplomatic note – which may turn out to be a stand-off between the NRM Government and the new US administration of President Joe Biden – is that the US ambassador to Uganda, Natalie Brown, was blocked from visiting Kyagulanyi. Whatever the Government’s consideration, this was political myopia.
Kyagulanyi has refused to recognize President Yoweri Museveni’s 59 percent win against his 35 percent. He has vowed to take the matter to court.
Constitutionally, he has three weeks to file his objections in the High Court from the time of the presidential elections. If that time expires before he has filed his case, then he is barred from bringing the matter to court, meaning that Museveni is declared the unequivocal winner of the general elections.
Political pundits believe that, blocking Kyagulanyi from legally contesting the result appears to be the intention of the Government. Immediately after the poll results were announced, Kyagulanyi said that he had “video evidence” to prove that the election had been rigged.
It would be fair for the EC, the Government and all the Uganda voters to be accorded the chance to hear Kyagulanyi out, to present his evidence, if indeed he has one. The other argument for his incarceration is that, the Government knows and fears that he actually has evidence; and that is why the Police have even raided his National Unity Party (NUP) offices in Kamokya.
In the litigation of the vote rigging, Kyagulanyi is not alone. There are many parliamentary contestants who want to go to court contesting the conduct of the poll in their constituencies.
Accounts of stark rigging of votes are emerging in various areas across the country. This may reflect into the conduct of the presidential voting itself, since the parliamentary winners were tagged to respective parties..
In one instance, during the dual presidential and parliamentary poll, it is said that a contestant in one of the constituencies in the southern Teso Sub-region was caught red-handed alongside her supporters with stuffed ballot boxes, as they delivered them to the EC polling officials for counting.
In this instance, the Police even arrested the culprits and took them to the Police station for the case to be preferred, only to learn later that all the culprits were released without a case. Any vote-rigging conclusions countrywide, can be drawn from such an incident.
In another part of the sub-region, there have been reports of incredible bribery of the electorate in advance of the elections. Such bribery had been accompanied by land-grabbing in the villages of the constituency and threats and intimidation of the villagers, in case they complained, or tried to report the matter to the Police.
In any case, the contestant threatened everybody, saying that she was attached to the military; and anybody who dared challenge her excesses would be dealt with by soldiers, who actually were her body guards.
It is such evidence that Kyagulanyi was probably having in his kitty to present to the court, that he would prove that there was an overwhelming indication that the vote had neither been free, fair nor credible. We wait to see if he will be accorded the democratic opportunity.