Uganda: I Don’t Know Total Number of Those Who Voted – EC Boss

Hearing of the election petition challenging the outcome of the February 18 presidential election kicked off today with the legal team of independent presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi cross-examining Electoral Commission chairman Dr Badru Kiggundu.

Kiggundu entered the dock at around 11:57am and took oath. Earlier on the EC lawyer, Enos Tumusiime had objected to the petitioner's cross examining Kiggundu, saying the petitioner needed to seek court permission to examine his client.

Chief justice Bart Katureebe said they had already granted the petitioner leave to do so. Mohamed Mbabazi, the lead counsel for the petitioner asked Kiggundu whether in announcing the election results at Namboole he used the declaration of results forms from the district or the electronic version. Kiggundu told court that he used the electronic scanned versions since the copies from the district had not yet come.

The lawyer also asked Kiggundu whether agents of candidates who signed the forms at the districts witnessed the actual scanning and transmission of results, to which Kiggundu answered that they didn't. He however, said the agents had a choice to point out any discrepancies before transmission of the results to the national tally centre at Namboole stadium. Asked whether he understudied elections elsewhere, Kiggundu said he observed the polls in Kenya and Ghana, adding that he employed the best practices in his work.

However, Mbabazi wondered why Kiggundu never employed the critical aspect of agents witnessing the entire process from the polling stations up to the national tally center. Asked why there was no explanation on the declaration forms in cases where some presidential candidates had no agents as required by law, Kiggundu said his records show that 60 percent of the polling stations had no agents.

He however, said the law requires that the presiding officer signs the forms explaining why the agents didn't sign the declaration forms. Kiggundu also said the Commission had a tight deadline for announcing the poll results within 48 hours, which dictated that in some instances they had to use special powers even if they weren't lawful.

Mbabazi also asked Kiggundu for the first 540 polling stations whose results were announced first, but the EC lawyer Tumusiime objected, saying that the petitioner asked for all the results, which were given to him, adding that he never specified which ones he wanted.

Kiggundu had earlier said if the petitioner so wished they could be availed the results of the 580 polling stations, which Katureebe agreed. On the total number of those who voted, Kiggundu said although the system has capacity to store data, it can not immediately release the data to find out the actual number of voters until after the end of the four-cycle elections (presidential and parliamentary, district, municipal and sub-county elections).

Kiggundu said at a later date he would be able to avail the actual number of verified voters who cast their ballot when the information is retrieved from the biometric systems. Kiggundu also said He said, that while the biometric system had the capability of tallying the actual number of voters who have cast their ballot instantly, the EC did not go for that functionality because of financial constraints.

Asked as to why Electoral Commission used the Biometric Voter Verification System, Kiggundu said it was to have a transparency, authenticity and integrity especially in preventing multiple voting. He said the system worked well and met the integrity objective for which it was intended.

Asked what duration of time it takes for the system to verify a voter, Kiggundu said it takes 30 seconds and not two minutes as widely alleged. Then he gave a detailed explanation how the system works to which, Mbabazi asked whether that takes just 30 seconds, which he answered in the affirmative. Mbabazi asked how such a sophisticated system that is supposed to make the election transparent and authentic can't store data; Kiggundu said the machine wasn't conditioned to store data.

Mbabazi wondered how a system that the suppliers quote on their website as a 'celebrated case' in Uganda could fall so short like that - to which Kiggundu said it was only down to financial constraints and that "you have to be on this side of the river to understand the complexities" of the electoral process.

On why EC used Identity cards instead of voter's cards, Kiggundu, said the ID was "more encompassing" than the voter's card, adding that it would d be wasteful use of money" to use them when the National ID would serve the same purpose.

Kiggundu further said that when he came in 2002 as the EC chairman, he found the commission with a partially-hand written register without voters photos, this, he said had to be digitised and also "retired".

Asked on whether retiring the old register was lawful, Kiggundu said it fell under special powers of the Commission and retired it administratively. Asked where the retired register is, Kiggundu said it is at the EC offices.

On the delivery of voting materials, Kiggundu said the ideal time should 24 hours. He went ahead to apologize for what happened in Kampala and Wakiso. On how many voters there are in Kampala and Wakiso, Kiggundu estimated that there could be about 2 million voters. There were instances where Kiggundu lost his cool, admitting that he was losing his head. His lawyer frequently intervened whenever the petitioners squeezed in a legal corner.

He had earlier admitted that he wasn't a lawyer and the Chief Justice noted that it would be good if the petitioners stuck to the points of fact when dealing with him.

There were also instances where Kiggundu didn't answer questions directed to him preferring to veer off with long winding explanations and the judges would remind him to answer the question.

The cross examination took two long hours and Kiggundu had to make do with just a bottle of mineral water to quench his thirst, which he finished mid the cross examination. The court room was filled to capacity. It attracted lawyers, journalists, political party representatives and a few members of the public. Court was adjourned for further hearing. The CJ said it will be a roll coaster ride that will go into the evening.

Source: All Africa