Jinja- As Jinja Municipality East Constituency voters go to the polls today, at least 48 supporters of Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party candidate, Mr Paul Mwiru, are being detained across various police stations in the district.
While confirming the arrests yesterday, Kiira region police spokesperson Diana Nandaula said the suspects, facing vandalism charges among other crimes, were picked from National Fisheries Research Institute (NaFRI) in Rippon Village in Jinja Municipality where FDC supporters had camped after Mr Mwiru’s last campaign rally at Busoga Square in Jinja Town.
“After last evening’s campaigns, three yellow buses were attacked on Main Street by unknown people and stoned, shattering their glasses. We then received an eyewitness account and traced the suspects to NaFRI where they were arrested and are being detained,” she said.
Ms Nandaula, however, refuted reports that the number of suspects reached 100.
She said the suspects are being detained for vandalism contrary to reports that they were intimidating supporters of another camp.
Ms Nandaula further confirmed the heavy deployment of police, saying additional manpower was brought in from neighbouring units to ensure that security is tightened.
“This deployment is expected to continue throughout the polling day until the winner is announced. We appeal to people not to break the law because those planning to do so will be arrested,” she said.
The seat fell vacant after the Court of Appeal in Kampala nullified Mr Nathan Nabeta’s February 2016 victory on grounds that he connived with the Electoral Commission (EC) to alter results at Danida A-D polling station which put him at an advantage.
Mr Joseph Otim, a security guard at NaFRI, said after the FDC rally, their supporters retreated to the institute’s offices from where they were attacked by NRM supporters.
“When those people (FDC supporters) came from Busoga Square, they were immediately followed here by NRM supporters; and this drew here a large police contingent led by the Regional Police Commander (RPC), Mr Gerald Twishime,” he narrated.
While exposing what looked like shoe marks on his trousers, he added: “When the RPC came, he asked for the keys to the gate and he started beating me after I handed the keys to him, before allowing some policeofficers to step on me... Shortly after, these NRM supporters entered and started throwing the FDC supporters they found inside onto waiting police vans.”
Mr Twishime could not be reached for a comment by press time.
An FDC supporter, Yunus Kimera, said: “When I returned from the rally, I passed by our offices and found a police patrol van at the gate. Atop the car were stick-welding youth who immediately descended from the car and started beating people.”
“About five to 10 minutes later, police patrol cars numbering about 10 and led by a police officer at the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), whose names I didn’t quite get, pulled up and denied people access to and from our offices,” he added.
However, the NRM communications officer, Mr Rogers Mulindwa, in a press release issued yesterday, said the NRM received information that the Opposition was planning to cause havoc before, during and after today’s elections.
Meanwhile, Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), a coalition of civil society organisations, predicts that today’s by-election will be tense and highly securitised.
“There is fear that tomorrow (today) is likely to be ‘a very tense election’ considering the fact that this has not been run as just a constituency-based election but has rather had a national picture in a sense that the sentiments that have played out during the campaign have been mainly a question of ‘where you pro-amendment of the Constitution or not?” Mr Crispin Kaheru, the CCEDU coordinator, said in an interview.
Polling stations: About 28,000 voters across 47 polling stations are expected to participate in today’s poll.
Candidates: The election has attracted eight candidates including Nathan Nabeta, Paul Mwiru are Mr Faisal Mayemba, Mr Francis Wakabi, Ms Christine Monica Abuze, Mr Paul Mugaya, Mr Richard Nyanzi and Mr Hatim Isabirye Mugendi – all Independents.
Main contenders: Mr Mwiru owns Busoga One FM radio station in Jinja which has boosted his campaigns while Mr Nabeta has served as State minister for Trade. He hopes to ride on President Museveni’s backing and NRM’s achievements to get voted.