The just concluded general elections in Uganda where president Museveni was declared winner to extend his 30-year rule for another five years were characterized with a lot of inconsistencies ranging from delays in the voting time, delays in releasing of results and other inconsistencies that left a lot of questions over the credibility of the whole exercise.
In the Elgon Region of the country that consists of Mbale District and other neighboring districts in the Eastern part of the country, the voting exercise started from 9 am onwards contrary to the gazetted time whereby the exercise was supposed to start at exactly 7 am and close at 4 pm.
When the West Fm team that had camped in Mbale town did spot checks in different polling stations early in the morning of the voting day from 6 am to 7 am, the poll stations looked deserted and there were no signs that a major exercise was set to take place there.
There were no elections officials at the stations and there were no voters who were eager to start the voting early enough like back home in Kenya where voters flock poll stations as early as 4 or 5 am to start queuing to vote.
As late as 7 am there was nothing noticeable at the poll stations yet the exercise was to kick off and any new person visiting the town could not sense any sign of voting in different parts of Mbale town and neighboring areas.
The tempo and vigor that was witnessed during the campaigns in rallies that attracted huge crowds for different candidates had suddenly fizzled out and there was no eagerness of voting for change or maintaining of status quo as the crowds had indicated in the rallies.
Mbale region that is perceived to be an opposition zone leaning towards Freedom for Democratic Change FDC candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye did not reflect the urge for change that they had yearned for during the campaigns.
Despite long queues witnessed in polling stations there was no indications of deliberate moves by voters to dedicate their time and energies to the all important function to vote in huge numbers for their preferable candidate a situation that led to their preferred candidate Besigye fighting neck to neck for votes in his stronghold with NRM candidate president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
In Mbale district that has three constituencies including Mbale Municipality, Bungokho North and South, Besigye got 70,258 votes against Museveni’s 65,543 votes in Mbale district that are equivalent to50.67 per cent for Besigye and 47.27 per cent for Museveni out of the 138,645 total valid votes cast from the possible 220,339 registered voters in the entire district that had 428 poll stations.
By 9 am on the material day of voting on 18th February 2016, the elections materials were still being dispatched from the Mbale District registrar’s office to different polling stations in the sub-parishes or rather sub-counties in the district meaning that many more poll stations in upcountry received the materials as late as 10 am or 11 am before the exercise kicked off later.
When asked as to why the materials delayed to be dispatched the district registrar James Musinguzi said that the materials were received at his office at 5 45 am from Kampala before his team embarked on verifying and dispatching them to various destinations for the voting to kick off.
“We received the polling materials particularly the black ballot boxes which contain the ballot papers among other materials at 5 45 am and we just immediately embarked on organizing per sub-county and dispatching to various sub-counties beginning with the distant ones such as Wanale, Budwale, Bubyangu and the rest,” said Musinguzi.
He however insisted that despite the delay in kicking off of the voting exercise the exercise will remain within the gazetted time of 7 am to 4 pm whereby he noted that voters still had enough time to vote before the close of the voting.
Despite the delay the voters turned up and voted at their respective stations peacefully until the end of the exercise at 4 pm that paved way for the counting of votes before the results were taken to the district tallying center at the Mbale Municipal hall.
At the poll stations there were no major issues noted by the candidates or their supporters but it was at the tallying center that many supporters of different candidates raised issues with the electoral commission officials whom they accused of releasing results that did not reflect what was announced at the poll stations.
There was notable delay in releasing of the results for the Members of Parliament and the presidential candidates until the returning officer was put under a lot of pressure to hasten the process.
However in the long run each candidate and their supporters accepted the results with the winners breaking into celebrations in the streets of Mbale town as losers sneaked out of the tallying hall unnoticed to go and nurse the injuries and losses they encountered in the bruising campaign process in the run to the elections.
Also present at the tallying center was FDC secretary general Nandala Mafuabi who had come to get the official results for the seat of president in Mbale district on behalf of his candidate and the party.
The results announced by the returning officer at Mbale tallying center saw Michael Welikhe Wakafabusa of NRM retain his Bungokho South parliamentary seat on an NRM ticket, Jack wamanga wamai also retained his Mbale Municipality seat on FDC ticket as Gushomu Wambete of FDC made a debut to the national assembly on an FDC ticket to represent the people of Bungokho North constituency.
Results for the district woman Member of Parliament for Mbale District had issues hence the returning officer declared the incumbent Connie Nakayenze Galiwango of NRM as winner, retaining her seat despite the returning officer having failed to announce the results of other contestants citing the failure of the tallying machine.
The RO who promised to release the results of the woman MP Saturday morning was nowhere to be found when the candidates who vied for the seat and their supporters arrived at the tallying center only to be told that the returning officer was on his way to Kampala taking the results manually after the machine failed to relay the results to the national tallying center at Mandela National Stadium in Namboole.
Heavy police presence
Another notable incident that the residents complained of included the heavy presence of security personnel ranging from regular police, the army, military and other forces that were felt all over the polling centers and the tallying center together with other places that were nowhere near the election centers.
Many voters and residents saw it as a move to intimidate the voters as many were scared by the presence of the security personnel and were believed to have stayed away from the exercise that was to give them chance to vote as part of their constitutional right.
There were also several cases where voting malpractices were noted especially when one man was arrested with an election form in his bag yet it was supposed to have been sealed inside the ballot box at the polling center as another man was also found with a ballot box.
Others believed that the ruling NRM under the leadership of president elect Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who was declared by the Uganda electoral commission chairman Engineer Badru Kiggundu by garnering 62 per cent against his former ally-turned foe Dr. Kizza Kifefe Besigye of FDC who managed 35 per cent of the votes.
According to the Ugandan constitution for one to be declared winner of a presidential contest he or she needs to get 50+1% of the total votes cast for him or her to be declared winner hence Museveni passed the mark.
Before the declaration of Museveni as winner of the presidential contest, his opponents including Besigye and Amama Mbabazi who was prime minister in Museveni’s NRM government before he resigned and announced his candidature for the top seat were reported to have been arrested on several occasions in what many saw as an intimidation of the opposition orchestrated by Museveni’s architects using the military and other security forces.
Before announcing of the presidential winner, there was tension in the town of Mbale whereby many residents remained indoors as there was looming fear that the town could experience chaos immediately after Museveni is declared winner.
Many shops remained closed the better part of Saturday as other people traveled up country to weigh the situation from there fearing not to be caught up in the demos that could turn violent.
However sources privy to West Fm revealed that the demos might erupt later this week as the demonstrators who are supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye are waiting for his word to move into the next course of action.
Besigye has since termed the elections a flawed exercise whereby the elections body has been accused of being partisan and favoring the ruling NRM candidate Yoweri Museveni.
During the campaigns and during the voting process Besigye had vowed to lead his troops into defiance to the results by fighting for their rights as Ugandans although he did not reveal the mode of defiance or fight as his supporters said they were ready to fight and even die for their right as Ugandans for the sake of the future generations.