Uganda: Claims of rigging, wrong party signs dent peaceful polls

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Incumbent mayor of Rubaga Division Joyce Ssebugwawo uses a biometeric machine before casting her vote at Ham Mukasa Polling Station in Kampala yesterday. PHOTO/RACHEL MABALA.

By Monitor Reporters

The municipal and division elections yesterday were largely peaceful across the country but there were also many incidents of vote rigging and other irregularities.

In some polling stations, names of candidates were missing on ballot papers while at others, wrong party symbols were put on candidates’ names.

In some places such as Entebbe Municipality, Wakiso District, security forces took over the voter registers, leaving the election officials stranded.
There were also many reports of ballot stuffing and vote rigging.

Low turnout
Across Kampala City, Mukono and Wakiso districts, heavy morning rains disrupted the voting, which started or resumed as late as 10am in many places. There was low voter turnout at most polling stations in Kampala Central Division.

Mr Ambrose Ahimbisibwe, a polling officer at Martin Road Polling Station, blamed the low voter turnout partly on the rain.

At many polling stations in Rubaga Division, voting did not start until after 10am when the rain subsided. At St Lawrence University Car Park, voting started at 10:50am.
“Here voting could not start because it was raining heavily. The people, who had turned up to vote, ran away and now the polling stations are empty,” Mr Ali Advertisement

Mukwaya, the chairperson for Aggrey Zone, told Daily Monitor earlier in the day.
Several other city divisions and Wakiso also reported similar delays in voting due to the downpour.

In Mbuya, Nakawa Division, Kampala, voting was peaceful but was also disrupted by the rain. Mr Bechaham Oshabahebwa, the polling agent at Jambula in Bugolobi, said they were ready by 6am but they were disrupted by the rain, and had to wait for at least 10 people to witness the opening of the materials.

In Mukono Municipality, police led by Mr Sam Muhanguzi halted the voting at Basiima Kikooza Polling Station over ballot stuffing.

Voters attacked electoral officials and polling agents after some pre-ticked ballot papers were reportedly stuffed in the boxes. 

Voters claimed supporters of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) were being given more than one ballot, and were seen struggling to stuff them inside the boxes.

Mr Haruna Kiwanuka, a voter, alleged that NRM voters were given a code (a password) that was supposed to be aired out when they reached polling assistants for easy identification and ruling party supporters were given more than one ballot.

However, the sub-county election supervisor, Mr Robert Ssekirya, denied the claims of ballot stuffing. He said the problem was with the biometric machine, which they decided to abandon and use manual voting.

“Our biometric machine had technical problems and it only indicates less than 90 people voted and yet more than 100 people cast their votes,” Mr Ssekirya said.
In Makindye Division, Kampala, there was a standoff after voters accused the army and police officers of rigging in favour of an independent candidate, Mr Julius Mukanga Kabiswa. Journalists who were covering the process were chased away by the soldiers.

Kampala Central Division mayoral candidate Charles Musoke Sserunjogi alleged that some of his rivals were involved in election malpractices. Without mentioning names, Mr Sserunjogi claimed that he had gathered substantial evidence about one of the candidates who had been stuffing ballots. He did not substantiate.

“I tried reporting the matter to the Electoral Commission and security personnel but they only promised to investigate the matter yet I had even offered them leads. How shall we then trust the electoral process with such malpractices? Both the Electoral Commission and police should crack the whip on such vices,” he said.

Mr Sserunjogi is the incumbent Kampala Central Division mayor seeking re-election.
Other candidates include Mr Salim Uhuru (NRM), Mr Patrick Mugisha (Independent) and Mr Hamdan Ssemugooma (NUP).

When contacted about the allegations, Kampala Central Division returning officer Doreen Musiime asked Mr Sserunjogi to report the matter to police. She said EC was not aware of any candidates involved in rigging in the Central Division.

At Wandegeya, voters accused Ms Namutebi Namubiru, the mother of Ms Shanitah Nampiima Mulumba, the NRM candidate for the Local Council III councillor, of bribing voters. They claimed Ms Namutebi was giving money to voters and would escort them up to the voting table to ensure they voted her daughter.

Our reporter at Wandegeya also witnessed a black numberless car enter the voting area with unknown objects, which they secretly handed over to the election officials.

Missing ballots
In Nansana Municipality, Wakiso District, there were chaotic scenes as voters at four polling stations hosted at St Joseph Catholic Church protested missing ballot papers and Declaration of Results forms.

Confusion erupted in the morning after it was discovered that ballot papers for female and directly elected councillors were less than the number of registered voters at the four polling stations.

The presiding officer at one of the polling stations, Ms Josephine Kyomuhendo, said the polling station has 1,061 registered voters but they only received 450 ballots.

“Upon realising this, [candidates’] agents said the process should stop not until all ballot papers are brought,” she said.

“Accepting to vote means that when the available ballots are over, those who will come later will miss out. They have explained the mix-up of the ballots and we have understood the matter. Now, let them also tell us where the missing ballot papers are,” Ms Clair Nakajugo, an agent for Dr Samuel Mukasa, an NRM candidate in the area, said.

The voters in the queues lost patience and threatened to beat up the election officials, claiming it was a trick to rig the votes.

The voting could not start until police and the military intervened. Voting started at around noon after the election and security officials and a local elder, Dr Ronald Musenze, held a meeting with the candidates’ agents and resolved the impasse.
Mr Fosca Tumwebaze, the Wakiso assistant returning officer, said they agreed to borrow ballots from other polling stations if the turn up exceeded the available ballots.

In Entebbe, the voting process at Bugonga, Kitaasa, Nakasamba and Kakeeka polling centres was brought to a halt by the Electoral Commission officials after the FDC party sign was put against the NUP candidate, Mr Peter Sebuwufu.
“I feel very saddened because I had used all the little money I had and invested in the campaigns. We feel this was just planned, I don’t see this being a free and fair election by any level,” Mr Sebuwufu, the NUP candidate for LC4 councillor, said. 

The polling assistant at Kakeeka Polling Station A-M, Mr Laban Niwagaba, confirmed the problem and said voting was cancelled. “We found out that the FDC Key sign was put for the NUP candidate, Mr Peter Sebuwufu, instead of the Umbrella. We called our supervisors and they decided to halt the voting process for that post but voting for mayor and woman councillor continued,” he said.
In Central Division, Kampala, there was confusion in Kisenyi I Parish when Mr William Ssemakula, who was presenting himself as a NUP candidate, found his name missing on the ballot paper. The ballot bore the name, Mr Nicholas Ssemwogerere, as the NUP candidate.

Mr Ssemakula rushed to the EC office, but by the time of filing this story, it was not clear if he had been reinstated on the ballot paper.
“I’m at the Electoral Commission seeking reasons why my name is missing on the ballot paper. So far I haven’t got any answer,” he said.
However, Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, the NUP spokesperson, said the name that appeared on the ballot paper was the right candidate.

By Franklin Draku, Joseph Kiggundu, Benson Tumusiime, Abdul Nasser Ssemugabi, Isaac Sejombwe, Shamim Nateebwa, Prossy Kisakye, Betty Ndagire, Shabibah Nakirigya, Afedraru Lominda, Damalie Mukhaye, Paul Adude, Benjamin Jumbe, Stanley Mukooza, Arthur Wadero, Irene Abalo and Amos Ngwomoya.

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