It is Maj. Gen Benon Biraaro that Erias Lukwago owes his victory and subsequent office as Kampala Lord Mayor.
Apparently, without Biraaro’s hand, the ruling party NRM candidate, Peter Ssematimba, would right now be seated at City Hall carrying out mayoral duties.
Biraaro disclosed this during a quick chit-chat with Andrew Irumba, the founder of Pan African Live debate, a political talk show that runs every Friday at Fairway hotel in Kampala.
When asked to clarify whether himself and Amama Mbabazi, the former Prime Minister were President Yoweri Museveni’s proxies being used to disorganise the opposition, Biraaro told Irumba something he had never told anyone else.
“Let me tell you, in the previous mayoral elections, I and my colleague reached at a polling station in Kisugu in the wee hours of the morning and found the ballot boxes already full.”
“I picked my phone and called Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the minister of Internal Affairs and told him that the ballot boxes were already full in favour of Sematimba, yet only a handful of people had so far cast votes.”
Biraaro says Aronda’s response was mind-boggling.
“It’s Amama and team who slept at the conference centre doing that,” Aronda told Biraaro.
After accusing Amama of conniving in ballot stuffing, Aronda reportedly excitedly added: “That is good news if they [Amama team] have delivered already.”
“But,” Biraaro intervened, shocked, “that [rigging] is not what we promised people, we promised free and fair elections.”
Biraaro said he then mobilised and ensured the racket was busted and results rejected.
“I did it and I’m proud I contributed to Lukwago’s victory. So, sometimes we are accused by opposition when they actually don’t know what happens behind our backs,” he concluded.
“I saved Lukwago’s votes, I don’t know if he knows!”
In 2011, after chaos marred the first Kampala mayoral election, Independent candidate, Lukwago, was declared the winner of the re-vote.
According to The Independent, Sematimba’s campaigners were accused of going around telling voters it would be unwise to vote Lukwago because “his win won’t stand anyway”.
Opposition then organised itself to protect Lukwago’s votes with FDC vice president for Eastern Uganda, Salaam Musumba, being deployed to protect Lukwago’s votes in Mbuya Army Barracks in Nakawa Division, centre of previous vote rigging.
She was joined by other FDC members like FDC Ngora woman MP contestant, Sarah Eperu, and Kyadondo East MP, Ssemujju Nganda.
Lukwago beat five other candidates including NRM’s Ssematimba after polling 229,325 votes (64.41 percent) followed by Ssematimba with 119,015 votes (33.43 percent), Michael Mabikke (4,092 votes), Edward Francis Babu (2,059 votes), Sandra Ngabo Katebalirwe (1,035) and Emmanuel Rwamafa Tumusiime 539 votes.
The Electoral Commission admitted on national TV that its officials were involved in rigging after boxes with pre-ticked ballots in favour of Sematimba were discovered by Lukwago’s agents.
“I can proudly say that I have defeated President Museveni and the NRM rigging machinery because it has been a battle between me and the state and not my opponents. President Museveni did all he could to fail me but in vain,” Lukwago told electorates not knowing who exactly had secured his win.
However, a bill was passed by the Ugandan Parliament making the position of mayor ceremonial with the president appointing an executive director, Jennifer Musisi, to head the administration of the city.
Biraaro moves on to seek presidency
Biraaro did not stop that but started a political party called ‘National Unity & Reconciliation Party’.
Electoral Commission tried to derail the process of registering the party after another president of an existing party [unrevealed] applied with a similar name.
On Friday, Biraaro picked nomination forms from the Electoral Commission to stand as president in 2016.
Biraaro, a former presidential principal private secretary, commander and director in the army, told The Observer, Uganda was headed for a “failed state” if Museveni is re-elected for a fifth presidential term in next year’s elections.
Biraaro promised to change the political direction of Uganda in terms of democracy which he says Museveni has turned away from.
“We must prepare this country to be an industrialized economy; so, we will look at the education system and everything it takes to ensure that our people are skilled.”
He said it was Museveni’s fault that Uganda is neither among super powers, developing countries nor poor countries.
“When you leave our status, you go to failed states; and two things make a country a failed state.”
He said Museveni has nothing more to offer after 30 years in power “not with this corruption and the impunity of the institutions that are stealing without being mindful of the population”.
He castigated the president for “war mongering” instead of aspiring for peace and allowing free and fair campaigns.
“I saw the president [directing] that the crime preventers be put under his office. You see the panic. I don’t know why. Five million crime preventers as they stated; you really see that they are up to something and we must examine further, but let us see how it develops.”
He also castigated torture machine, Maj Kakooza Mutale, for training illegal militias saying Ugandans wanted violence-free elections.