Bribery, falsification of results and false voters threaten to derail the Democratic Party grassroots elections only a week after they started.
With disquiet mounting in the party, The Observer has learnt that some of its MPs are threatening to quit over lack of transparency in the management of the electoral process.
At the party’s retreat on March 14-15 in Masaka, leaders agreed an electoral roadmap that would begin with grassroots elections and end with the national delegates’ conference on June 18-21.
The elections were meant to kick off on April 11, but were extended by a week, after various members rejected the stewardship of embattled Kampala deputy lord mayor Sulaiman Kidandala, the party’s deputy organizing secretary. The substantive secretary, Charles Musoke Sserunjogi, has stayed away from party activities for nearly three years.
But unhappy party members convinced Sserunjogi to return to office and oversee the grassroots elections. Sserunjogi effectively took over from Kidandala on April 9 after a DP stakeholders meeting at Hotel Equatoria. April 16 was announced as the new date for village branches elections.
The elections have, however, been marred by claims of bribery, falsification of results and, in some areas, NRM members are said to have voted. At least two MPs, Betty Nambooze Bakireke (Mukono Municipality) and Latif Ssebaggala (Kawempe North) have written to the party leadership threatening to quit the party.
The party’s executive in Masaka has petitioned the secretary general, Bukoto South MP Mathias Nsubuga, to rein-in DP’s Legal Aisor, Fred Mukasa Mbidde.
TURNING INTO NRM?
In her letter to Nsubuga, Nambooze said it was distressing for her to belong to a party that is being managed in a manner similar to that of NRM.
“I have always preached against rigging, I have always aocated free and fair elections and resisted people who rig elections which at one time delayed my entry to Parliament for four years,” Nambooze’s letter reads.
“DP has been known to stand for truth and justice, and when we see it wanting to behave like NRM, we don’t feel comfortable belonging to such a party,” Nambooze further wrote.
Ssebaggala’s letter carried similar threats. With party president, Norbert Mao away in Nairobi, former party president, Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, was called in to handle the emerging threats.
Ssemogerere heads the party’s reconciliatory committee but has in recent times been forced to fill the void left by Mao who went on sick leave.
“A public declaration that you are quitting the party will greatly affect our efforts to rebuild DP,” Ssemogerere told Nambooze during an April 17 meeting at Satellite beach in Mukono.
Ssemogerere, Nsubuga and DP national chairman Mohammed Baswari Kezaala rushed to Mukono after Nambooze led the entire district executive to boycott the elections.
“It is so stressful to put up with vote rigging in your own party. It becomes a dilemma when your own party sends you into [its] opposition,” Nambooze told The Observer on Thursday.
Lack of leaders has made it difficult for the party elections to take off in many districts across the country. The Observer understands the elections are being held only in the central districts of Mukono, Masaka, Wakiso and Mityana plus the eastern Jinja municipality.
This is so because in such districts, the party has elected MPs or Local government leaders who can facilitate the process. During the Mukono meeting, Kezaala announced that DP is bankrupt and would depend on the financial support of local leaders to manage elections in the districts.
Kezaala’s pronouncement plunged the party into further confusion, with financially-stable party leaders in some areas pushing the elections to dates of their convenience.
For instance in Masaka, Jude Mbabaali pushed the elections in Bukoto Central to May 2. This annoyed other DP supporters like Andrew Batemyetto, who wants to challenge Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, the current MP.
In Busiro South, one candidate aspiring to replace MP Joseph Balikuddembe Mutebi allegedly bought off all DP leaders in the constituency.
“We are relying on hope that the party leadership will intervene much as it is too late,” Simon Kaggwa Njala, a candidate, told The Observer on April 24.
“I can’t hold meetings with DP leaders in the constituency because they have already announced publicly their allegiance to a particular candidate,” he added.
Besides the bribery, there are claims that DP leaders have also printed counterfeit party cards they allegedly distributed to NRM supporters to vote – although this could not be independently verified. The claim is that some leaders want to bring in delegates who would vote out certain candidates that are not supportive of the current DP leadership.
To mediate a truce, Mbidde on April 18, called a “special Masaka district delegates’ conference and convention” at Masaka Social Centre, Bwala. But peace failed to be achieved. Some DP leaders were angered by Mbidde’s agenda.
He, for instance, fixed an election of a new organizing secretary for the district to replace Hajj Isaac Ssemujju (RIP). Some party leaders protested. Mbidde went ahead anyway with the election that controversially brought in his aide, Innocent Kateregga.
Kateregga has since called off the grassroots elections in the district. He also annulled the Bukoto East poll because the elections had been irregularly conducted by area MP Florence Namayanja.
He recalled DP membership cards that had previously been distributed in the district because Namayanja “fraudulently” acquired them from the party headquarters. Mbidde wants to return as Masaka DP chairman, a position Namayanja is also eying.
“DP has no culture of ring- fencing certain positions for certain people,” Dick Lukyamuzi, the party’s deputy organizing secretary, told The Observer on April 24.
“He must not forget that we gave him a soft landing in Masaka after being rejected in Kampala, and it has taken some of us more than a decade doing [public relations] for him defending his name against the various scandals he has been named in… ” Lukyamuzi added.
Lukyamuzi and Namayanja are some of the party leaders in Masaka that signed a petition calling for disciplinary action against Mbidde.
Mbidde did not answer nor return our calls but Party Secretary General Mathias Nsubuga said on Friday that the party was handling its problems. “The cards we issued have security codes that are specific to a given area. We shall, therefore, be able to differentiate a genuine card from a fake one,” Nsubuga said.
Source : The Observer