By Misairi Thembo Kahungu
The declaration of the State Minister for Labour, Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana, as the NRM flag bearer for the Rushenyi parliamentary seat yesterday has triggered more controversy after it emerged that the party tribunal had scheduled the election petition hearing for September 30.
Mr Rukutana's rival and former Ntungamo District Woman MP Naome Kabasharira yesterday said she was surprised by the declaration of Mr Rukutana as the winner of Rushenyi NRM primaries a few hours before the tribunal had told her they would hear the petition next week.
"I was informed this morning that the NRM elections tribunal was to listen to our grievances emanating from the Rushenyi elections. I am then called in the afternoon that results have been released and what Mr Odoi had declared is what was the centre of contention," Ms Kabasharira said yesterday.
She added: "He (Mr Odoi) is saying we lost by 20 votes and he is including votes from a polling station of Nyakahita that never voted. We shall remain calm and wait for the tribunal hearing. I hope justice shall be done."
The NRM electoral commission chairman, Mr Tanga Odoi, yesterday declared Mr Rukutana the flag bearer for Rushenyi County, defeating Ms Kabasharira with a margin of 20 votes after re-tallying the votes.
Ms Kabasharira had initially been declared the winner of the September 4 primaries with 24,006 votes against Mr Rukutana's 23,966. There were three other aspirants in the race.
However, Mr Rukutana, who was arrested for allegedly using violence and is currently out of prison on bail, petitioned the NRM electoral commission who cancelled the results last week.
Ms Kabasharira later also filed a counter-petition.
Mr Odoi ordered the re-tallying of the votes at the NRM headquarters and yesterday announced the final results at his office in Kampala.
Last week, Mr Odoi said he would announce the final results after visiting Nyakahita Village in Rushenyi District.
"It was disputed that there was no election (in Nyakahita village). I went and met the people that you may think are local but very intelligent. What they told me is that they had elections and they even had results on their fingertips," Mr Odoi said at the declaration of the final tally yesterday.
"By the time the rain came and people started infiltrating from other towns, I had already covered 42 ladies and 16 men and the results I got in my research did not have a lot of error. I used it to confirm what I want to declare," he said.
In the final tally announced, Mr Rukutana had 25,310 votes representing 46.27 per cent while Ms Kabasharira polled 25,290 votes which is 46.23 per cent, translating into a margin of 20 votes.
Mr Bob Nahabwe came third with 2,270 votes followed by Mr Nicholas Nuwahereza with 1,229 votes, Mr Norman Kashereka polled 350 votes and Mr Elia Rwagara Mwesigwa came last with 256 votes.
During the re-tallying last week, Ms Kabasharira contested the results on a declaration form produced by Mr Rukutana's team, saying there were no elections in Nyakahita Village.
"The results are not correct that he (Rukutana) is defeating us with 20 votes. His team went to Nyakahita Village which did not vote and made a declaration form. When we went for re-tallying, we asked for the copy of the electoral commission and it was not there," Ms Kabasharira said.
Mr Rukutana did not attend the re-tallying as he was in court seeking to be released from jail on bail following his arrest shortly after the elections on charges of threatening violence, assault and malicious damage to property.
In a video clip circulated on social media, the former Deputy Attorney General appeared to be grabbing a gun from one of his guards and attempting to shoot at a person.
Our efforts to speak to Mr Rukutana yesterday about the latest development were futile as he cancelled our calls.
Ms Kabasharira, however, asked why Mr Odoi who had promised to announce the results by Friday decided to declare them on the day the tribunal published in the press that the petition on Rushenyi election would be heard next week.
"For us we are waiting to appear before the tribunal on September 30 as per the invitation. We hope the tribunal will deliver justice to us," Ms Kabasharira added.
The NRM Secretary General, Ms Justine Kasule Lumumba, said she had not yet received official information about the results declared by Mr Odoi but suggested it is time for anyone to contest the outcome.
"They (tribunal) could have received a petition against other things that happened during the voting but not the results because officially they had not yet declared the winner. If they have declared the winner now, then there is something to petition against," Ms Lumumba said yesterday.
Ms Kabasharira said part of her petition is about some of the villages where the number of voters were inflated and the results went in favour of Mr Rukutana.