Wednesday February 23 2011

13 boxes of pre-ticked ballots seized in Kampala as Mayoral elections start

Medard Lubega Segona talks on phone after

Medard Lubega Segona talks on phone after Lukwago's supporters and police discovered boxes with stolen votes at Buganda Road Primary Scholl public library. Police said the issues would be handled with the Electoral Commission and police. The police assistants in this centre ran away. PHOTO BY YUSUF MUZIRANSA. 

By Yasiin Mugerwa, Al-Mahadi Ssenkabirwa, Emmanuel Mulondo, Isaac Khisa, Isaac Kasamani, Flavia Lanyero, Andrew Bagala and Scarlet Chemarum

Monitor Team

At least 13 boxes packed with pre-ticked ballot papers meant for today’s national local government council elections have been intercepted in different parts of Kampala as the voting exercise in some areas turned messy.

Five boxes were found at Bat Valley and three at Public Library polling station on Buganda Road. Another two boxes were found at Railway polling station and a further four were found at National Theatre, where two Electoral Commission poling officials were arrested and taken to police for allegedly aiding rigging.

In one of the boxes counted at around 7:30am in the presence of our reporter at Bat Valley, there were 399 pre-ticked ballot papers – all in favour of the ruling National Resistance Movement’s (NRM’s) Kampala mayoral candidate, Peter Ssematimba.

In the second box, there were 424 ballot papers pre-ticked in favour of NRM councillors while the remaining three boxes were confiscated before they were pre-ticked. The intercepted pre-ticked ballot papers at Buganda Road polling station had not yet been counted by 9:50 am as officials waited for instructions from the Electoral Commission.

In Rubaga Division, Kakeeka polling station, there were ugly scenes after Mr Ssematimba’s supporters turned rowdy and clashed with Mr Lukwago’s supporters who had intercepted a rigging plan. It took the intervention of the military police to calm the situation. Voters who had gathered to cast their ballots scampered to safety.

Journalists beaten

According to our reporters, Mr Nicholas Bbaale, a journalist working with Channel 44 was reportedly badly injured in a fracas where other journalists were beaten.

Mr Robert Musoke, a polling agent for the Kampala mayoral candidate Erias Lukwago said they received reports at 3am that Mr Ssematimba’s group had hatched a rigging plan. “We gathered our people from Makerere, Kivulu and other neighbouring areas and caught these people with five ballot boxes with pre-ticked ballots,” Musoke said.

Police on the spot

A scuffle ensued after police attempted to take the stuffed boxes to Kampala Central Police Station. After a standoff, EC officials intervened and ordered that all the stuffed boxes be kept at the polling station until the end of the exercise.

According to Mr Musoke and eye witnesses, those who stuffed ballot boxes with pre-ticked papers were being protected by police officers led by Andrew Sorowen, the Commander of Kampala Metropolitan. Police were at the scene from 3am to 7am.

At National Theatre polling station, reports indicate that people started voting at 5:30am and by 6am 58 out of 666 registered voters had finished through unclear circumstances. By the time Joseph Biribonwa, a commissioner with the Electoral Commission came to the area, 99 people had voted before the official time for the start of voting. The voting was supposed to begin at 7am.

With the Electoral Commission convinced that there was glaring rigging, the electoral body was forced to suspend the exercise at Bat Valley and Public Library, located on Buganda Road. There were reports that in other areas, polling agents for some candidates connived with returning officers to open the exercise ahead of the official voting time.

The two stuffed ballot boxes seized at Railway Poling station were taken to CPS under the command of Mr Pius Otto, the officer in charge, amid protests from Mr Lukwago supporters. At National Theatre, after the arrest of the poling officials, leaked ballot papers and boxes were replaced by others and the exercise later resumed at 10:30 am.