National Resistance Movement Kampala mayoral candidate, Peter Sematimba could be kicked out of the race if the demand for his disqualification by all candidates is accepted. The Local Government Act under which this election was held states that any person who interferes with a ballot box, ballot documents or any other property in use or intended to be used for the purpose of an election shall be disqualified from standing or participating in an election for a period of not less than three years.
This law also stipulates more punishments like imprisonment not exceeding three years, and payment of a specific fine.
The candidates yesterday demanded Mr Sematimba’s disqualification, accusing him of masterminding the chaos and rigging that led to the cancellation of their polls.
Threats to pullout
“That is the thuggery that he will take to Kampala City Council and corruption will eat us the more. We don’t want him in the race anymore, us the innocent ones should continue,” said Ms Sandra Ngabo Katebalirwe (independent).
Ms Ngabo has threatened to pull out of the race if the EC doesn’t act on Mr Sematimba.
“The EC should apologise for the mess. They can’t disown ballot papers and ballot boxes, is there anyone with a master copy of the ballots?”said Capt. Francis Babu (independent). “We want to see the EC follow laws to the letter.”
Capt. Babu also alleged that a very senior ruling party official and other people met in a Kampala hotel on the eve of elections where they plotted how to buy off all the presiding officers.
“God talks through people, the man cheating has been exposed,” Capt. Babu said.
“Sematimba should be disqualified and compelled to apologise to people of Kampala for taking them for granted,” Capt. Babu said. “Our democratic process has been adulterated and dishonoured. Sematimba should be barred from engaging in active politics in this country for at least 10 years,” he insisted.
Ballot boxes seized from different polling areas around the city with ballots pre-ticked in Mr Sematimba’s favour sparked the chaos which forced the EC to cancel the whole process yesterday.
Mr Sematimba, however, denied any involvement. “This could have been done by my opponents to discredit me,” he said. “All my opponents should join me, police and the EC to investigate the cause and the guilty ones should be dealt with.”
The pre-ticking, suspected to have taken place in the wee hours of Wednesday morning came to the fore as voters turned up at the official opening timeof 7pm only to find ballot boxes full.
The mayoral candidates also cast blame on the EC and questioned the integrity of the just-concluded presidential and parliamentary polls in light of the shocking turn of events which transpired in the city yesterday.
“The EC hasn’t told us where the ballots came from. We are not sure if the February 18, general elections weren’t also done like this,” Ms Ngabo said.
Another independent candidate, Mr Erias Lukwago, who is the outgoing MP for Kampala Central, also asked that all his agents who have been arrested be set free unconditionally.
EC should resign
He demanded for resignation of the EC “because we are not sure the presidential polls weren’t rigged the same way.”
“This (rigging of elections) is the very reason that took Mr Museveni to the bush. We have seen the same stuff today. We need a free and fair poll not such vote thuggery,” Mr Lukwago said.
Electoral Commission officials, however, pleaded for understanding.
“What you can blame us on is failure to employ Angel Gabriels who can’t be corrupted to preside over the polls,” Mr Sam Rwakoojo, the EC secretary, said.
Deputy EC boss Joseph Biribonwa, who supervises Kampala electoral area, earlier in the day while announcing the cancellation accused his polling officials of conniving with candidates to stuff ballots and have an early start of polling hence violence.
He also said some other polling officials didn’t witness the opening of the exercise because it started earlier than normal.
Mr Biribonwa was, however, reluctant to delve into details of where the materials which arrived abnormally early came from when the storage is always done at the police stations.
“There has been a high degree of connivance of polling officials with candidates, we don’t know what time the stuffing took place, but the whole process is cancelled,” Mr Biribonwa said.
He added that the police will take up the matter and investigate how the leakage happened.
Inter-Party Cooperation candidate Micheal Mabikke, who also accused rival Lukwago of being part of the confusion, said he was pleasantly surprised by the EC’s reaction.
“Time and again we have raised complaints with the commission and they refuse to act. That they have acted comes as a surprise,” Mr Mabikke said.
“It’s a pity that Sematimba and Lukwago have decided to behave like that. They should actually be disqualified. They should not be allowed to stand again,” he said.