BY PHILIP WAFULA & RONALD SEEBE
In the aftermath of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party primaries, President Museveni in a tweet alluded to the fact that chaos marred the exercise.
Mr Museveni, who is the party chairperson, both in his tweet and in his address on Monday when he visited the party headquarters, specifically singled out Bukono (constituency) where the election was characterised by vote rigging.
“The cheating in the NRM primaries is over. Those who beat people, like in Bukono, are all in jail or on the run . . .,” Mr Museveni said.
But what exactly happened in Bukono that drew the President’s attention?
Bukono in Namutumba District is the second constituency to be carved out of Busiki. It borders Kaliro to the west and Kibuku to the north, and its inhabitants speak Lusiki, a dialect similar to Lulamogi that is widely spoken in Kaliro District.
Bukono derives its name from Nkono, one of the 11 chiefdoms which make up Busoga Kingdom and is represented in Parliament by Ms Persis Namuganza, the State minister for Lands. She assumed the seat as its first legislator in 2016 after defeating the former district chairperson, Mr Michael Saire.
However, since then, the constituency has been an epicentre of violence purportedly because it is, since its inception in 2016, being led by a woman who, it is perceived by Ms Namuganza’s critics, “has an affirmative seat from where she can seek election.”
As a result, its primaries and elections are usually marred by chaotic scenes, including violence and voter bribery, compared to Busiki Constituency.
During the 2015 NRM primaries, for instance, the violence in Bukono prompted then Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura to camp in the area to calm the two warring factions of the time led by Ms Namuganza and Mr Saire.
Such violence would later result in the transfer of then Busoga East Regional Police Commander Ashraf Chemonges, then Namutumba District Police Commander and other junior officers in the region for their alleged “failure to provide security to Ms Namuganza during the primaries,” resulting in her standing as an Independent.
Not done yet, during a thanksgiving ceremony at Ivukula Sub-county headquarters in October 2016 in which Gen Kayihura was the chief guest, he ordered Mr Chemonges to apologise to Ms Namuganza “for what went wrong during the NRM primaries.”
“I want the RPC to apologise to Ms Namuganza for the misconduct of police he commanded during elections,” he said, following Ms Namuganza’s speech in which she informed the IGP how police had allegedly misbehaved, tortured and injured her supporters and disenfranchised them during the primaries.
This prompted Gen Kayihura to fire Mr Chemonges over the microphone before the people of Bukono.
Despite that account, the NRM primaries, which were held last Friday, were more violent than those held in 2015.
While the primaries attracted Ms Namuganza, Mr Emma Maganda Kato and Mr John Mukabire, the race was between the first two. What made the elections a highly contested one was an allegation from Ms Namuganza, accusing Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga of fronting Mr Maganda to contest against her.
According to Ms Namuganza, Ms Kadaga, Mr Paul Akamba (NRM, Busiki) and Ms Mariam Naigaga (NRM, Woman) sponsored Mr Maganda to bribe voters when she contested for the NRM national vice chairperson (female) seat.
“And now they are doing the same by deploying the army, police and training people to beat and threaten my voters,” she told journalists as voting got underway last Friday.
According to Ms Namuganza, her voters were beaten and went into coma while others did not vote, fearing the police and the army, which was allegedly deployed “everywhere” by Mr Maganda. “The whole constituency was surrounded by army who were beating up my people and scaring them from voting,” she added.
What minister says
Much as she won the elections, Ms Namuganza maintains that it was full of bribery, torture and beating of voters, especially in Kibaale and Nabweyo sub-counties where Mr Maganda hails from.
Mr Jamal Nabongho, a resident of Kibaale Village, Kibaale Sub-county in Namutumba District, said the heavy deployment of the army and police was done by both Mr Maganda and Ms Namuganza.
“It was Ms Namuganza who deployed more army and police; but because she is a minister, she is favoured,” he said.
The violence in Bukono constituency prompted the NRM electoral commission chairperson, Mr Tanga Odoi, to cancel the election.
“I received a call from Mr Odoi cancelling the elections until further notice,” Ms Namuganza would tell journalists in an interview at Bugwe, her polling station last Friday.
Her statement was later re-echoed by the Namutumba District NRM electoral officer, Mr Bovan Magobi Bovan, who confirmed receiving a call from Mr Odoi, cancelling the elections in Bukono constituency until further communication.
However, the elections, which had to be stopped from around mid-day to around 4pm, later resumed after another communication came ordering voting to continue.
According to Ms Namuganza, had it not been for the violence in which her supporters were allegedly beaten up in Kibaale, with some reportedly still recuperating at Ivukula Health Centre III, she would have won by 95 per cent.
Ms Namuganza’s connections in security agencies are believed to have been made during her time as deputy Luweero Resident District Commissioner.
Culture has shaped the violence seen in Bukono constituency as a section of Bakono who support Ms Namuganza do not believe in the current chief of Nkono chiefdom, Mr George Mutyaba, according to Mr Jaberi Waiswa, an opinion leader.
According to Mr Mutyaba, such differences contribute 30 per cent of the violence in Bukono.
“One cannot survive to be beaten up if he or she stands in Bukono looking for votes and is known not to support the chief of Nkono chiefdom. So, violence starts with issues of culture then other factors follow,” he said on Monday.
The Namutumba RDC, Mr Amos Ssempala, said violence in Bukono constituency started during campaigns where people were ‘fighting every day for nothing’.
“The fights became worse on polling day but arrests were made a day before. As security, we are against such acts. Our effort is to see that people are secure and not violent, only that they end up being violent,” he said.
Lands minister Persis Namuganza’s agent was killed on election day last Friday, prompting the NRM electoral commission chairperson, Mr Tanga Odoi, to call off elections in Bukono constituency. “I have suspended elections in Bukono constituency because Hon. Persis Namuganza’s agent was killed this morning. We have sent police to arrest anyone connected to that killing” Mr Odoi said.