Ballot Stuffing Interrupted in Kampala–What Happens When Ruling Party Gets Caught Red Handed?

Daily Monitor: “Chaos in the City:  Details on how Sematimba’s rigging plan was hatched”

Kampala mayoral candidates, observers and legal minds have demanded the disqualification of the ruling party candidate, Peter Sematimba, from the contest after leaked ballot papers pre-ticked in his favour were intercepted in various parts of Kampala.

Large-scale ballot stuffing and other electoral malpractices yesterday forced the Electoral Commission to suspend the voting exercise in Kampala and promise an investigation into the source of the ballot papers and boxes found in possession of private individuals.

Calls for disqualification
The local government elections went on in other parts of the country even though our correspondents talked of a very low voter turn-out, largely blamed on voter disillusionment and fatigue.
Mr Michael Mabikke, Mr Erias Lukwago, Ms Sandra Ngabo Kateblirwe and Capt. Francis Babu accused the NRM party of hatching a plan to help Mr Ssematimba win through dubious means, an accusation the NRM candidate stoutly denied.

The Uganda Law Society and the Democracy Monitoring Group (DemGroup) and other observers also called for disqualification of mayoral candidates implicated in the ballot stuffing. However, the EC said any action will be taken only after an investigation.

.  .  .  .

Rigging began at Bat Valley polling station, where five pre-ticked ballot boxes were intercepted at 3am by mayoral candidate Erias Lukwago’s agents. A fracas later ensued in this area after it emerged that Kampala Metropolitan Police commander Andrew Sorowen was allegedly among the police officers protecting ballot stuffers, a claim the police spokesperson denied.

But after hours of standoff, police later allowed the counting of the stuffed ballots but couldn’t put a finger on the suspects. In one of the boxes counted at around 7:30am in the presence of our correspondent at Bat Valley, there were 399 pre-ticked ballot papers– all in favour of Mr Sematimba, who is also a pastor.

In a second box, there were 424 ballot papers pre-ticked in favour of the National Resistance Movement councillors and 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 waiting for Electoral Commission instructions.

.  .  .  .

According to the source, Mr Sematimba’s henchmen were only discovered because another mayoral candidate, Erias Lukwago, and his loyalists somehow came into the know of this plot.  Sematimba and Lukwago’s supporters were involved in violent confrontation for most of the night until the wee hours of Wednesday morning when police intervened. It is also emerging that several Electoral Commission officials and police officers were facilitated to look the other way as the malpractices happened.
This will be a good test for the state of the “rule of law” in Uganda–and a test of the level of seriousness of the Western donors who have helped underwrite the NRM government for so many years now.  How many other races did this happen in–or does rigging only happen in the competition for local office?

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