Uganda: 14 lawyers to hear 370 NRM election petitions

Mamos Media

By Misairi Thembo Kahungu

Ms Connie Galiwango in a line at Children’s Park in Mbale City. She contested for NRM flag for woman MP seat, Mbale City. PHOTO | OLIVIER MUKAAYA

The National Resistance Movement (NRM) Secretariat has been overwhelmed by election petitions following the violent primaries held on September 4.

The party elections that were marred by ugly scenes of violence and vote rigging have attracted a staggering 373 petitions challenging the results. 
The ruling party has set itself about a week to hear and dispose of the petitions.

The election, which was held by voters lining up behind candidates or their portraits to elect flag the party bearers for district woman, city woman and constituency MPs, targeted 353 constituencies, 11 cities and 129 districts.
About five districts, which became operational in July 2018 did not elect flag bearers for Woman MPs because Electoral Commission (EC) said it has no money to organise elections in those areas.

The NRM director for Legal Affairs, Mr Oscar Kihika, said his directorate received more than 400 petitions from candidates challenging the outcome of the September 4 elections but after vetting them, 373 were picked for the hearing.

While addressing the press with the party’s deputy secretary general, Mr Richard Todwong, at the NRM headquarters on Sunday, Mr Kihika said his directorate has assembled a team of 14 lawyers to handle the election petitions. 
He declined to reveal the identity of the lawyers.
“The total tally is 373 petitions from 10 districts around the country which registered several complaints. On Monday [today], we shall ask respondents whose results are challenged to respond to the accusations within three days which will elapse on Thursday,” Mr Kihiika told journalists.
The lawyers will then take a week to examine the grounds in the petitions alongside the defence submissions and take a decision.
“Each of the lawyers will be holding a hearing where each party [petitioners and respondents] will present their case. The lawyers will then make recommendations to the party electoral commission which will make a final decision on whether to cancel the results or carry out a fresh tallying process,” he added.

Election violence
Election violence manifested mostly in some parts of Ankole Sub-region and in Eastern region, where at least six people were killed and scores injured.

State minister for Labour Mwesigwa Rukutana is the most prominent of the incumbent MPs, who allegedly meted out violence and has been remanded on charges of attempted murder, assault, threatening violence and malicious damage of property.
He is accused of shooting one of his opponent’s supporters in the Rushenyi County election race. Rukutana lost to Ms Naome Kabasharira.

Incumbents lose
The NRM primaries elections saw more than 100 incumbent MPs lose the vote to retain the party flag to contest in 2021 General Election.
Many of them blamed their defeat on President Museveni’s directive that unregistered voters be allowed to vote in the primaries as long as they would be recognised by the village committees and were aged 18 or above. 
Some of those who lost have already vowed to return as Independent candidates in the 2020 General Election.

“Generally the letter by the President instructing that all who are not in the register should vote caused a big mess for us. It is not only here in Kassanda,” Kassanda South MP Simeo Nsubuga said last week after losing to Mr Michael Muhumuza.

The Kumi District Woman MP, Ms Monica Amoding, said she would not even waste time to petition the party headquarters but had already embarked on campaigns as an Independent candidate to retain her seat in the next Parliament.

“This was not an election. It was a sham because it had no control and clear guidelines. I am already in the field as we speak now and the mood of the genuine voters shows they will support my bid as an Independent,” Ms Amoding said.

The Kabula County MP, Mr James Kakooza, who has been an Independent MP, said he will seek re-election the same way he did in 2016 after losing.
“I thought this time it would be different but the worst happened. The inaccuracies in the register cannot give a version of the results expected in the General Elections,” he said.
Some of the incumbents that lost, who have already filed petitions with their party include Mr Godfrey Dhamuzungu (Budgiope East), Mr Kenneth Lubogo (Bulamogi), Mr Innocent Pentagon Kamusiime (Butembe County), and Ms Juliet Suubi Kyinyamatama (Rakai District Woman MP).

Returning as Independent
In March, government lost a motion in Parliament seeking to block those who lose in party primaries from contesting as Independents. 
Parliament rejected the proposal in both Presidential Elections Amendment Bill 2019 and Parliamentary Elections Amendment Bill 2019. 
The proposal was that for one to contest for President or MP as an Independent, he or she must have been discharged officially from a political party where he or she is a registered member 12 months to nominations by the Electoral Commission.

Delayed results
By yesterday, the results for the Woman MP race for Mbale City and Tororo District were not yet declared as NRM electoral commission was yet to make a decision on the contested results.
The results for Mbale City Woman MP were not declared on September 5 following clashes between the candidates Ms Connie Galiwango and Ms Lydia Wanyoto. Both women claimed victory.

In Tororo, the election management team only declared results in one county and have since not declared full results in other areas. 
State minister for Minerals Sarah Opendi, who claims she won the election and only awaits official declaration said: “I am travelling back from Kampala because I have been told that a team from the headquarters is in the area to add up the results from Tororo County and West Budama before announcing the winner.”

Capt Mike Mukula, the NRM vice chairperson for eastern region, told the Capital Gang, a weekly talk show on Capital FM on Saturday: “ A team from Kampala will be in Mbale on Monday [today] to  look into the results and declare the winner.”

President response 
Last week, President Museveni who was bitter with the high level of violence during the primaries, said a panel of elders would be set up in every region to handle other complaints.
“My advice is that we should set up panels of elders per zone. As NRM members, you don’t have to riot or quarrel. Just write a petition and send it to the panel,” Mr Museveni advised.

Daily Monitor has learnt from sources that these tribunals will mostly work with lawyers to harmonise both sides where no serious petitions were raised but there are candidates who want to return as independents.
It is also not yet clear when Mawogola North and Mawogola South in Sembabule District will elect their MP flag bearers after the exercise was suspended due to violence. 

President Museveni met Sembabule leaders last Thursday but no official details of their discussions have been communicated.

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