New Electoral Commission weak – Musumba

Salaamu Musumba - Electoral Commission weak
Salaamu Musumba, addressing the media after casting her vote at St. Mark Church Polling station. Courtesy Photo.

Cases of violence are being reported in the Kamuli Municipality parliamentary by-election as one of the candidates, Proscovia Salaamu Musumba, accuses the Election Commission of letting the police take over the process.

Musumba, a member of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, discredited the new Electoral Commission (EC) team saying that they are not different from the previous one.

In November last year, President Yoweri Museveni appointed Justice Simon Byabakama as new Electoral Commission chairperson, replacing Dr Badru Kiggundu who retired.

Justice Byabakama is deputised by Hajjati Aisha Lubega, with Peter Emorut, Stephen Tashobya and Mustapha Ssebagala as members of the Commission.

But hardly six months into the new Commission’s work, Musumba says that Kamuli by-election has exposed EC weakness and that this has been manifested in the fact that police has taken over the electoral process.

Musumba said this while St. Mark Church polling station where she had come to cast her vote. She also says that she has proof that police is protecting people who are giving out cash to bribe voters to for the ruling NRM party candidate, Rehema Watongola.

However, Paul Bukenya, the EC spokesperson could not be reached for a comment on Musumba’s allegations because of the ongoing elections. This is the second by-election organised under the Justice Byabakama-led commission. Last week, Independent candidate Lucy Achiro Otim regained her seat in the Aruu North by-election, defeating NRM candidate Nabison Kidega.

There is tension in Kamuli municipality as voters accuse police of guarding a vehicle that is alleged to be carrying money to be used to bribe voters. Police and FDC supporters have been engaged in running battles. Some voters are now armed with sticks and stones.

Crispy Kaheru, the Coordinator for Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), notes that it is not a good sign that the voters accuse police of being partisan.

“I think as institutions of government are mandated to conduct elections, there is need for them to be seen as commanding confidence,” he said.

The by-election attracted five contestants including Watongola, Salaamu Musumba and independent candidates Proscovia Naikoba Kanakutanda, Samuel Walugyo and Mike Kiboome.

It follows the ejection of Watongola from parliament over lack of requisite academic qualifications. The court decision followed a petition filed by Musumba accusing her of uttering and using false documents to contest for the parliamentary seat.