New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Six Ministers Vow to Stand As Independents

At least six National Resistance Movement (NRM) government ministers who lost in the party primaries may contest as independents. The nomination of candidates takes place on Thursday and Friday (November 25-26).

State ministers Asuman Kiyingi (lands), Jennifer Namuyangu (water), Urban Tibamanya (urban planning), Aggrey Bagiire (agriculture), Dr. James Nsaba Buturo (ethics and integrity) and Ephraim Kamuntu (finance) argue that they were rigged against and they had failed to get redress from the party.

With only four days to nomination, the ministers have lost hope of getting redress and are preparing to get nominaed as independents.

The implication of the decision to run as independents could not immediately be established. But sources said a minister running as an independent could mean a vote of no confidence in the party that runs the government he is serving.

According to the NRM constitution, one ceases to be a member of the party when one runs as an independent. But party spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said due to the problems encountered during the primaries, NRM would "go slow on some of the ministers as a reconciliation committee deals with disputes that arose from the elections."

ASUMAN KIYINGI

In the Bugabula South election, which was chaotic, Asuman Kiyingi lost to former Makerere University guild president Maurice Kibalya by 197 votes. Kiyingi said the NRM electoral commission ignored his petition and he would now run as an independent despite party chairman President Yoweri Museveni's warning the losers against doing so.

Kiyingi told Sunday Vision: "The results which were declared were false."

He explained that results from 11 polling stations were not included in the tallying, although the voting process was peaceful. "In all of them, I had scored 784 votes against my opponent's 374. The difference would cover the 197 difference by which I was defeated," Kiyingi argued.

Asked whether he would run as an independent, Kiyingi said: "I am caught up between a rock and a hard place."

He said 3,000 of his supporters met last Sunday in Namwendwa Sub-county and "pleaded" with him to stand or they would vote for the FDC candidate.

"I will obey what my voters are saying; afterall the final court is the people. We have genuine complaints but no one listens to us. We are not disobeying the party; it is some elements within the party who are frustrating the course of justice," Kiyingi explained.

JENNIPHER NAMUYANGU

She said the elections in her Kibuku County were scandalous and she would also respect the voters' demand.

"The final verdict should be decided by the people," she said, adding that "in the whole district from LCI to the MP, we have decided to come as independents. But we love our party."

Namuyangu noted that the electoral process was "hijacked by selfish individuals". She thanked President Yoweri Museveni for making her a minister "at a young age", but vowed not to "accept evil-minded people to deny us justice".

She promised to campaign for Museveni, but to oppose "self-imposed flag-bearers." Namuyangu was beaten for the seat by incumbent MP Saleh Kamba.

URBAN TIBAMANYA

He has also rejected the results for Kashaari constituency in which Wilberforce Yaguma Rutashokwa beat him.

Tibamanya said the primaries were "full of irregularities" and that his petition was not "properly handled" which is why the party's electoral commission was disbanded.

On whether he would stand as an independent, Tibamanya said: "I am waiting for the direction of the party leadership since they acknowledge the process was messed up."

He said an aspirant needed only 12 signatures to be nominated, which he argued takes seconds. He noted that if the party ruled against independents, aggrieved losers would have to make "tough decisions".

"I will cross that bridge when I get there," Tibamanya said.

AGGREY BAGIIRE

The minisiter also rejected his opponent Vincent Bagiire's victory in Bunya West constituency.

Asked if he would run as an independent, Bagiire said: "I have not yet made up my mind. I will make up my mind on Monday (tomorrow) after meeting my voters."

He added: "I am entitled to my opinion. When you stand as an MP, it involves not only your party, but also the voters. My decision to stand will depend on what the voters are saying."

JAMES NSABA BUTURO

Buturo is planning to stand as an independent for Bufumbira East, a constituency he had lost to former presidential assistant Eddie Kwizera.

Sources quoted Buturo as telling a meeting recently that he was rigged out by people with a "mission of promoting homosexuality". It is the reason, Buturo said, he was not willing to "give up the fight". Sunday Vision was unable to get a comment from Buturo, who has been outspoken against homosexuality and prostitution.

EPHRAIM KAMUNTU

Kamuntu is also planning to stand as an independent.

Earlier this week, he lodged an application at the High Court in Mbarara seeking to block the nomination of his opponent, Eng. Yorokamu Batengwa Katwiremu, as the flag-bearer for Sheema South constituency.

Complaints yet to be addressed

Hundreds of other losers are also planning to contest as independents. Over 600 people who petitioned the party over various complaints are yet to get redress.

Soon after the elections, President Yoweri Museveni said the party would not tolerate independents, but said all genuine cases of electoral malpractices would be addressed. He said elections could be repeated if the complaints were valid.

Accordingly, the party set up a committee headed by vice-chairman Hajji Moses Kigongo to investigate irregularities across the country. However, the party's electoral commission announced the final list of flag-bearers before the committee completed its work.

A highly-placed NRM source said: "We are likely to have a bigger number of NRM independents coming to Parliament in 2011 because the primaries were messed up with rigging, bribery, falsification of results and the victims of these injustices have been denied justice."

The party's deputy spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said: "In many areas, we did not have accurate voters' registers. This left a wide room for manipulation."

He cited fake voters, non-existent villages, intimidation, ghost polling stations and ballot stuffing. He said some results were declared in areas which did not vote. He noted that despite the complaints lodged with the party electoral commission, party officers from "the villages to the secretary general" have not sorted out the mess.

"There is, therefore, a strong argument that many people who lost in such circumstances will have a genuine cause to run as independents."

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