Bribery, intimidation claims headline Omoro by-election

National Unity Platform party candidate Simon Toolit Akecha arrives for his campaigns at Adak Trading Centre on Monday. PHOTO | TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY

What you need to know:

  • In an interview, the National Unity Platform (NUP) candidate, Mr Simon Toolit, said they had reportedly recorded evidence of the NRM party agents and campaigners dishing out huge amounts of money to voters.

Massive cases of voter bribery and intimidation have marred the ongoing parliamentary by-election campaign for Omoro County, Sunday Monitor has learnt.

The Opposition parties are faulting ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party candidate Andrew Ojok for allegedly distributing huge amounts of money to voters in different villages and campaign venues both day and night.

In an interview, the National Unity Platform (NUP) candidate, Mr Simon Toolit, said they had reportedly recorded evidence of the NRM party agents and campaigners dishing out huge amounts of money to voters.

“We have seen women being given Shs1,000 or Shs2,000,” Mr Toolit protested.

An investigation by Sunday Monitor established that the NRM camp gave locals Shs1.2m to distribute on day one of the campaigns in Mr Toolit’s home village at Teolam Trading Centre in Odek Sub-county.  Another Shs4m was handed to locals at Tegot Village in Akidi Sub-county to share.

On Friday, the NRM camp, while mopping up Akidi Sub-county, gave Shs1.8m to locals at Cukbale Trading Centre in Kec-okela Parish to share. 

Earlier, on Tuesday, Mr Toolit had petitioned the Electoral Commission (EC) to intervene over the concerns of voter bribery and intimidation that he says his camp is grappling with.

On Friday, Ms Rosemary Seninde, the NRM party’s director for mobilisation, denied the allegations. She said the money given to the locals while on the campaign trail is for refreshments.

“When we hold a meeting, a campaign or a rally and you give your people a drink, is that a crime? ,” Ms Seninde asked. 

Propaganda, intimidation

Ms Seninde accused the NUP party of trying to use propaganda to provoke the security establishment and throw a spanner in the works. 

She was referring to an incident that happened on Thursday evening when the police clashed with and teargassed NUP supporters at Romkituku Village, Acet Town Council. 

Mr Toolit was said to be holding a campaign rally at 8pm.

Mr David Ongom Mudong, the Aswa River Region police spokesperson, said NUP supporters “started pelting stones at officers” after the rally was red flagged.

“They also put several barricades and blocked the roads and interfered with traffic, prompting us to disperse them forcefully,” he added.

Ms Seninde alleges that provoking the security personnel is one of the strategies NUP is applying at the campaigns to attract sympathy.

Dr Lina Zedriga, the NUP party deputy president, condemned the interference into NUP campaigns by the NRM camp and the police while calling for peaceful rallies.

She said: “If we are going to campaign in our venue, why should we be interfered with by NRM or be trailed by the police?”

Dramatic start

On Monday, when campaigns kicked off, there was drama at Adak Trading Centre and Corner Lakwaya, in Lakwaya Sub-county, the two venues where Mr Toolit started electioneering. The drama started after NRM campaign agents stormed the place and started distributing their candidate’s T-shirts and money. Chaos erupted when NUP supporters tried frantically to fend off NRM supporters. Despite a heavy deployment, police made no attempt to intervene and restore sanity.

“Why would NRM come and start distributing clothes and other things at exactly where I am meant to address my supporters yet we earlier on reconciled all our campaigns schedules with the EC?” Mr Toolit protested.

Mr Ongom said they did not intervene because “we don’t want to be partisan.” He said the Force’s “interest is to ensure security and safety of all [the] candidates.” He was quick to rule out favouritism, instead saying that “checkpoints [at rallies] are one of our strategies to secure this election.”

Asked whether the several roadblocks mounted by police and the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers were to block FDC’s Patrick Amuriat Oboi and NUP’s Robert Kyagulanyi from coming to Omoro to participate in the campaigns, Mr Ongom said they were part of their security readiness for the campaigns.

“We are expecting VIPs to be part of this campaign and, therefore, we are not taking security matters lightly,” he added.

EC clears NRM’s Ojok 

Meanwhile, the EC on Friday dismissed a petition filed by the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT) party candidate, Mr Oscar Kiiza, seeking nullification of Mr Ojok’s candidature over alleged illegal nomination. Mr Kiiza had reasoned that “the person nominated as Ojok Andrew Oulanyah does not exist and has no academic qualification but has instead attached and is using academic papers for Ojok Andrew O.” He further alleged that Mr Ojok also presented a doctored resignation letter from NITA-U.

The EC tweeted on Friday upholding Mr Ojok’s nomination. The tweet read thus: “The Commission has accordingly upheld the decision of the returning officer, Omoro District, in nominating the [six] candidates and they remain duly nominated candidates in the parliamentary by-election, with the polling set for May 26.”

The Commission listed the six eligible candidates as Mr Toolit (NUP), Mr Justine Odong (FDC), Mr Kiiza (ANT), Mr Jimmy Walter Onen (Ind), Mr Terrence Odonga (Ind), and (NRM) Mr Ojok.

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