Uganda: Violence Persists As NRM Party Goes to Elections

(file photo).
3 September 2020

Close to 12 million members of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party will tomorrow go to the polls to choose the party flag bearers for Woman Member of Parliament and directly elected MP seats for 2021 General Election.

But the violence that has rocked the party primaries is what has dominated the public debate.

Despite the blatant breach of Electoral Commission ban on public rallies for prevention of Covid-19, the NRM primaries have bred internal violence that has not been seen before in any other party.

Across the country, the elections have been rocked by chaotic or violent scenes with candidates or their supporters involved in bloody clashes to the extent that the party's electoral commission chairperson, Mr Tanga Odoi, threatened to suspend the exercise in certain areas.

Ugly scenes

At about 8:30pm on Tuesday, the MP for Serere County, Mr Patrick Okabe, reportedly engaged in a fist fight with his main challenger, Mr Samuel Otaala, at Ojama Village in Ocapa Town Council. The duo recorded statements at police.

Mr David Ongom Mudong, the East Kyoga regional police spokesperson, said: "For the last one month we have been recording on a day-to-day basis a number of counter assault accusations from politicians, especially against those linked to MPs and other aspirants."

In Bukedea District, some aspirants seeking the NRM flag for Kacumbala County are up in arms, demanding that the district NRM chairperson, Mr Isaac Epilo, and his entire team be fired.

On Wednesday, police while working on orders of the Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Ramathan Walugembe, impounded two public address systems used by Kacumbala MP Patrick Isiagi and his opponent David Omagor for allegedly contravening Covid-19 SOPs and for failing to abide by already set security procedures in the district.

Ms Gorreti Ajilo, the Woman MP for Kaberamaido District, yesterday told Daily Monitor that four of her supporters had been beaten by supporters of the rival camp. One of the victims reportedly lost three teeth.

The violence has hit epidemic proportions across the country that the attention of the army has been captured.

The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) 4th Division commander, Brig Bonny Bamwiseki, said they are investigating allegations that one of the aspirants for Koboko District Woman MP seat was seen wielding a machine gun.

Ms Margaret Baba Diri, who has been MP since 1996, accused her rival, Ms Sherifar Aate of drawing a gun at her agents and mobilisers but the latter denies the allegations.

"It is not true I and my father Taban Amin have been moving around during campaigns while having guns and pointing them at people. One day we used the same route with my father Taban Amin, he had his soldiers but for him he branched to his farm in Monodu while I stayed for my campaigns in Lobule Sub-county," Ms Aate, a granddaughter of Uganda's former military leader Idi Amin, said.

Koboko Municipality MP race is one of the most volatile contests that has put security agencies on alert.

The contest between Junior Investment minister Evelyn Anite and Dr Charles Ayume has become violent and acrimonious in West Nile. In the same sub-region, the Woman MP seat for Moyo District has also been a hotly contested post.

The NRM chairperson, Mr JB Sam Asusi, said security agencies must be alert on polling day as supporters of different aspirants have been aiming at each other since the campaigns stated.

The incumbent, Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu (State Minister for Primary Healthcare), is facing competition from Ms Anne Auru.

According to Mr Asusi, violence on polling day is likely to arise from those whose names have been found missing from the party voters register recently displayed at village level.

Moyo RDC William Labeja also warned: "As security organs, we are jointly monitoring the NRM party primaries. We shall not hesitate to swing into action if any chaos breaks out."

Away from West Nile, the situation is not calm either. In parts of Acholi Sub-region, the NRM campaigns have been volatile, especially in Lamwo and Omoro districts.

Fighting has been reported in Lamwo between supporters of incumbent Woman MP Molly Lanyero and her rival Nancy Acora Odonga's followers. In Omoro, clashes have been between supporters of Ms Catherine Lamwaka, the incumbent, and her rival Ms Betty Aketch Okullu.

"It was tense among the contestants themselves, but we have been able to carry out mediation in both camps so that whoever wins can still be supported in the next stage," Mr Oswin Oguti, the NRM coordinator for Acholi, said.

In Ankole Sub-region, tensions are high among supporters of Science and Technology minister, Dr Elioda Tumwesigye and Mr Dickson Kateshumbwa, in Sheema Municipality. The two rival camps accuse each other of using money to buy off supporters from either side.

Ssembabule District Woman MP Anifa Kawooya this week accused Mr Joseph Ssekabito, the incumbent MP for Mawogola County, of commanding his supporters to beat her up. Ms Kawooya who has been Woman MP since 2001, is battling Mr Ssekabito for Mawogola County flag.

In the same district, Lwemiyaga County is a battlefield between Mr Theodore Ssekikubo, the incumbent, and State Minister for Works Joy Kabatsi. On Wednesday, Mr Ssekikubo accused Ms Kabatsi of trying to kidnap him.

Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa's daughter Shartis Musherure is competing against Mr Godfrey Aine, the young brother of President Museveni for Mawogola North seat. The seat was vacated by Kutesa who announced retirement from elective politics.

Still in Sembabule, the violence has become so worrying that at the weekend, Mr John Arimpa Kigyagi, the NRM electoral commission vice chairperson, announced that party headquarters had taken over the elections. He said Mr Robert Ssesanga had been sent there to preside over the process and replace the NRM district registrar, Mr George William Katokoozi.

"Following the continued challenges in the electoral process in Sembabule, the NRM-EC has sent Mr Robert Ssesanga to oversee elections in Sembabule District. Mr Katokoozi (district registrar) will work under Ssesanga who will take charge of all the electoral processes from Sunday onwards," the statement reads in part.

In Nakaseke, police are investigating an incident where a car belonging to Mr Charles Nsereko Kauma, one of the aspirants for Nakaseke South MP, seat was burnt on Tuesday night.

Savanna regional police spokesperson Issa Ssemwogerere said four suspects had been arrested for arson.

Busoga Sub-region

The other trouble areas are Kasese (Bukonzo East where one of the two candidates is not in the first party register and has appeared in the new one displayed recently). Others are Mbale, Butaleja, Kampala, Wakiso, Mitooma, Amolatar, Sironko, and Manafwa districts, with varying degree of violence.

Specific constituencies to watch in Busoga Sub-region are Budiope East with Federation of Uganda Football Associations President Moses Magogo contesting against Geoffrey Dhamuzungu. In Bugabula North, Karamoja Affairs minister Moses Kizige is tussling it out with John Teira George Mulindwa and Flavia Omondi. In Bugabula South, Henry Kibalya is facing Kamuli chairperson Thomas Kategere.


Hot spots

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the NRM electoral commission chairperson, Mr Tanga Odoi, said at least 12 areas had been identified as hot spots ahead of tomorrow's party elections. He listed Sembabule, Hoima, Mityana, Kiruhura (Kashongi County), Kazo, Sheema, Bushenyi, Koboko, Kassanda, Tororo, Busia, and Kakumiro districts

Compiled by Misairi Thembo Kahungu, Simon Peter Emwamu, George Muron, George Emuron,Robert Muhereza, Felix Warom, Rashaul Adidi, Bill Oketch, Patrick Ebong, Cissy Makumbi, Martin Okudi, Fred Wambede, Dan Wandera & Sam Caleb Opio

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