KAMPALA — Reports of multiple voting, massive voter bribery, voting by non-NRM members, ferrying of voters, underage voting, violence and apprehension among others dominated the NRM primaries and require urgent investigation, according to the National Election Watch – Uganda (NEW-U), a formation of local NGOs to observe elections.
In their report released Sunday, the group cited a number of irregularities including use of military and money as a major motivator to intimidate and bribe voters among others —noting that the acts massively compromised the integrity of the whole NRM electoral process.
Reading a joint report, Ms. Ritah Aciro, the co-chair NEW-U said that the deliberate flouting of Covid-19 standard operating procedures by the party under the watchful eye of security forces may lead to a surge in community infections.
“Bribery characterized the campaigns with candidates offering
money and items like salt, soap, saucepans, plates, and sanitary pads to voters and citizen groups in exchange for the vote,” she said, adding that most candidates did not articulate their manifestos to voters and focused on bribing them and asking for
President Museveni who is the NRM chairman issued a directive on the eve of polling day to allow all voters who could identify themselves as NRM members to vote regardless of whether they appeared on the register, a directive they say juxtaposed confusion in the election.
Ms. Aciro said by the morning of election day, some NRM registrars had not received written copies of the directive and therefore failed to communicate to candidates and voters.
“Additionally, the directive by the NRM party chairperson was made contrary to Article
39(10) of the NRM Constitution which gives powers of organizing and conducting the NRM elections to the NRM EC,” she said.
In some parties of the country, several party contestants have rejected the election results, citing widespread irregularities and fraud.
“Bribery characterized the NRM primary election campaigns with candidates contesting
for Member of Parliament identified as major offenders,” the observers said.
In Arua district, on August 31, 2020, Candidate Jackson Atima is alleged to have given about 100 people comprised of mostly women, male and female youth who came to attend his rally at Oyoze cell in Tanganyika ward 1,000,000/=.
This led to fighting among those who attended as each one struggled to get some of the money.
In addition to massive bribery and disenfranchised voters, there were discrepancies between the tallies from polling stations and voting areas, some claimed. In Some areas like Kazo District, 72 hours later, results are yet to be announced while in some areas, election results were cancelled by party electoral commission chairman Tanga Odoi over violence and unbearable irregularities.
The group’s monitors documented incidents of rigging and bribery which, taken together, “rendered the exercise short of our expectation of a free and fair contest.”
The media and NEW-U observers
documented biased electoral officials, military influence and multiple voting, among other things.
Mr. Henry Muguzi, a member of strategic leadership team NEW-U told voters to avoid exchanging their votes for diminutive benefits such as soap and sugar, saying it is a dehumanizing act.
Muguzi called upon government and the Media to intensify voter education and sensitization to ensure that citizenry are aware of their obligations.
Section 69 of the Parliamentary Election Act (2001) and section 64 of the Presidential Election Act (2005) both outlaw voter bribery.
The section states that a person who, either before or during an election with intent, either directly or indirectly influences another person to vote or to refrain from voting any candidate, gives or provides or causes to be given or provided any money and gift commits the offence of bribery and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 72 currency points or imprisonment not exceeding three years or both.
Ms. Sarah Bireete, the ED Center for Constitutional Democracy (CCG) slammed police accusing them of double standards and selective application of the law.
“Police should apply the election laws and guidelines on election campaigns equally to ensure a level playing field for all candidates” she said.