NRM changed from UPC tactics, but not mission

On October 26, the Sunday Monitor published a long article by President Museveni in which he agreed with former Democratic Party president general Paul Ssemogerere on the rigging of 1980 elections.

Mr Museveni was responding to Ssemogerere’s earlier interview published in the same newspaper on September 28, about the history of DP and Uganda’s political life, generally.
Mr Museveni stated: “I agree with some of the contents of the interview such as the rigged elections of 1962 and 1980. The rigging was structural and obvious the multiple ballot papers and ballot boxes, the enclosed polling booths, the failure to count immediately after polling at the voting points and declaration of results, the gerrymandering of constituencies, etc.”

I agree with Mr Museveni on all the instruments Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) used to rig the elections as he cited above.

But what he did not say is whether the removal of UPC’s electoral procedures of using multiple ballot papers and boxes, enclosed polling booths, failure to count votes and declare results immediately at the voting points and adopting the NRM’s single ballot paperballot box, open-space voting and instant vote counting and declaration of results at polling points has stopped the rigging, which is the main and ultimate evil in Ugandan elections.

Mr Museveni wanted us to believe that the situation has changed today. Of course it has not. Mere change of UPC’s methods does not make the situation any different.
In 1980, I saw underage children from UPC families voting and soldiers interfering with the voting process, forcing DP members to vote UPC.

Mr Museveni only changed UPC methods of election stealing and replaced them with single ballot box and counting of votes at polling centres with instant declaration of results. But the rigging has been passionately maintained and consolidated.

The first general elections under NRM were held in 1996 where Ssemogerere was Mr Museveni’s main rival. They were stolen in a much similar way like the one of 1980. I doubt whether Ssemogerere would find a distinction between the rigging of the 1980 and 1996 elections. The 1996 scenario was replicated in 2001, 2006 and 2011 elections and will be repeated in even greater proportions in 2016 if Mr Museveni is still a candidate in the race.

‘Structural and obvious’
In his response to Ssemogerere’s article, Mr Museveni said the 1980 election rigging was “structural and obvious”. But so it is today.

Today, the election results that reach the national tally centre in Kampala are different from those declared at the polling station. They are doctored along the transit chain to the national tally centre in Kampala. So where UPC applied constituency gerrymandering to rig elections, the NRM has used “results gerrymandering” for the same purpose.

During the hearing of the 2001 presidential election petition in the Supreme Court, it was discovered that results declaration forms from polling stations had been altered in transit to Kampala.

The petitioner and Mr Museveni’s main rival, Dr Kizza Besigye, challenged the Electoral Commission (EC) to produce the results declaration forms they had used at the tally centre for comparisons with those from constituencies. The EC flatly refused. Why did they, if there was nothing to hide? The EC claimed it did not have the forms. Then what had it relied on to establish the candidates’ votes? Of course it was fear of the obvious coming out.

The Supreme Court unanimously confirmed that there was “massive rigging” during the 2001 elections. A similar verdict was unanimously passed by the judges in another presidential election petition of 2006. They only declined to annul both elections for some other reasons, but not because the polls had been free and fair.
So other than the methods used, what is the difference between the election stealing during UPC and under NRM?

In his article, the President also criticised Ssemogerere for opposing the army’s involvement in politics. Mr Museveni said whereas it is correct to say the army should not be partisan in politics, “they should not be barred from taking part in national affairs” such as patriotism, unity etc.

“Ideologically, our army is patriotic and pan-Africanist,” Mr Museveni claimed. I am using the word “claim” because there are facts that shoot down Mr Museveni’s assertion.
In 2001, Brig Patrick Kankiriho (now deceased), the then commanding officer of Bihanga Army Barracks in Ibanda District, moved with his escorts around Ibanda North constituency, beating up and chasing away all Opposition polling agents from the voting centres and forcing Besigye’s supporters to vote candidate Museveni of the ruling party.

This is similar to what the Uganda National Liberation Army soldiers did during 1980 elections. They forced DP supporters to cast their votes into the ballot box for UPC.

Brig Kankiriho’s actions were captured prominently in the Supreme Court’s judgments on the 2001 presidential election petition. He was then a captain and after the election, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, two ranks higher, with all his election mischief that had been publicised in the media during the hearing of the petition in court. Was he being rewarded for his partisan role in the election? Probably.

Similar incidents
There were several similar incidents countrywide where soldiers shot people perceived to be Opposition members or supporters. In Rukungiri, perceived Besigye supporters were shot dead. Others were shot dead or were wounded elsewhere in various parts of the country during the subsequent parliamentary elections.

Is that the behaviour of ideologically oriented soldiers President Museveni is boasting of under his reign and defending their partisan involvement in politics? Mr Museveni said the problem is being partisan in politics. Would he honestly describe Brig Kankiriho’s behaviour as not partisan?
Both UPC and NRM have used soldiers to gain undue electoral aantage over their opponents. The army was partisan during UPC and so it is today no matter the description used to create a distinction. Mr Museveni should not make us falsely believe that UPC and NRM are any different in as far as conducting of elections is concerned.

He can rightly claim restoration of national stability and security of person and property generally. But on election manipulation, his government cannot claim any distinction from UPC. The NRM has abandoned all UPC traits and deeds except “vote engineering”. In my opinion, both have mastered the tricks of election manipulation with inexhaustible skill and zeal. A rose is always a rose even by a different name.

pmatsiko@ug.nationmedia.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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