Dear Tingasiga, Nothing, absolutely nothing illegal that President Yoweri Museveni and his courtiers say or do shocks me.
Their preference for deception was on full display at a meeting at the Electoral Commission (EC) on November 25. The meeting, chaired by Badru Kiggundu of the Electoral Commission (EC), was called to discuss presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi’s four complaints against the EC and candidate Museveni.
The Deputy Inspector General of Police, senior police officers and lawyers representing candidates Mbabazi and Yoweri Museveni attended. (It is very oddly unusual that the Kampala papers have not reported details of this meeting.)
The complaints were that (1) NRM supporters had disrupted Mbabazi’s rally at Lukaya, Masaka; (2) NRM supporters had disrupted Mbabazi’s rally in Mukono; (4) a helicopter carrying Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde, a Museveni/NRM operative, had disrupted Mbabazi’s rally in Kabarole; and (4) NRM supporters had defaced and removed Mbabazi’s posters with supervision or complicity of Uganda Police in Mbarara.
It was also noted that Tumukunde had been moving ahead of Mbabazi to bribe voters and disorganize his rallies.
According to very reliable sources in the EC, the NRM lawyers responded that: (1) the complainant had not supplied evidence of disruption of the rallies; (2) those defacing posters were not known to the NRM; (3) Lt. Gen Tumukunde was not working for the NRM and no specific complaint had been brought against him; and (4) candidate processions were not allowed by the Electoral Commission and the NRM was not in position to control any interference with them.
For their part, Uganda Police representatives claimed that the Mbarara police officers had arrived only to find that the culprits had fled the scene of the crime.
One imagines the EC Chairman suppressing a mischievous smile as he adjourned the meeting “to allow the parties to present evidence of electoral offences committed by NRM against Mbabazi.” Strange that evidence that was easily available to someone in Toronto, 11,718 km from Kampala, was not on the EC chairman’s desk within moments of the crimes.
Fortunately Mbabazi’s lawyers will not have to work hard to produce the evidence and good witnesses.
Witness number one is Justin Kasule Lumumba, Secretary General of the NRM. Referring to the Tumukunde incident during an address to journalists, Lumumba apologized for “what happened,” adding that they had not known that Mbabazi had booked the venue for his rally.
In fact Lumumba’s apology, issued even as her party’s lawyers were fibbing before their EC partners, and the “we did not know” statement acknowledged that the disruption had occurred and exposed her party lawyers’ lie that Tumukunde was not working for the NRM.
Witness number two is Sudhir Byaruhanga, an NTV reporter in Kabarole. His video-backed report showed Tumukunde emerging from a yellow helicopter, festooned with NRM slogans and a photograph of candidate Museveni, that had landed at the venue of Mbabazi’s rally in Kabarole on November 17. It is highly unlikely that Tumukunde had hitched a ride to go and check on his cows or attend a Bible study in Kabarole.
Byaruhanga informed the viewers that bags “bearing unknown contents were offloaded” from the helicopter. “When Mbabazi and his team arrived at the venue, NRM supporters standing on one side of the pitch flashed posters of president Museveni,” Byaruhanga said.
Witnesses number three and four are Raymond Mujuni and Solomon Kawesa, NTV reporters in Mbarara, whose camera crew captured video recordings of “hordes of stick-wielding men, armed with posters of President Yoweri Museveni,” defacing and removing Mbabazi’s posters, under the watchful eyes of Uganda Police officers in a truck parked at the crime scene.
Mujuni and his crew also witnessed and filmed an incident where hundreds of boda boda riders in Mbarara were held hostage at the Nyamitanga resort after being promised free fuel and cash in exchange for staying away from Mbabazi’s rally.
The boda boda riders, their votes up for sale, cried foul after realizing that they had been conned by Museveni’s operatives. Not that the Boda Boda men cared about the politics of the candidates. One told Mujuni and Kawesa: “Let them give us fuel so that we support Mzee (Museveni), but if they don’t give us the fuel, we go to Mbabazi.” The mutual deception spoke volumes about the fundamental change that had occurred in Uganda.
Whether or not the video evidence will affect the conduct of the Kiggundu EC remains to be seen. The façade of democratic practice by the EC is so entrenched that one does not expect much from them.
What should concern us all, Tingasiga, is the danger that is posed by the nearly 2 million so-called crime preventers. While we cannot be certain, it is quite possible that the stick-wielding men in Mbarara might very well have been members of this illegal outfit.
I state here, for the record and for posterity, that these people, armed with deadly sticks, may trigger catastrophic violence in Uganda. Museveni’s determination to hang on to power has sired this amorphous outfit. The country watches, mostly in silence. The world watches, with business as usual.
I reflect on Museveni’s actions and recall the words of the Prophet Hosea 10:13-14; “But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of battle will rise against your people, so that all your fortresses will be devastated—as Shalman devastated Beth Arbel on the day of battle, when mothers were dashed to the ground with their children.”
We pray for Uganda.
Letter to a Kampala Friend
By Muniini K. Mulera