Two weeks after he described the January 14 presidential and parliamentary polls as the “most cheating free election” Uganda has had since 1962, President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni now believes that his party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM’s) dismal performance in Buganda region was due to cheating.
Museveni recorded his worst performance in Buganda and Busoga since 1996 – the year Uganda returned to elective politics since NRM captured state power in 1986 after a five-year guerrilla war.
The 76-year-old who has been in power for 35 years lost to a 38-year-old and less experienced Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu whose National Unity Platform (NUP) party also swept most of the parliamentary seats in Buganda.
Meeting members of NRM parliamentary caucus at Kololo in Kampala, Museveni said that NRM candidates lost because they were not thorough but also, due to cheating.
“There was a lot of cheating in Buganda; many of the MPs who lost did not lose because they were defeated but because they were cheated. They were cheated because of their lack of thoroughness,” Museveni said.
Museveni’s statements before the NRM legislators seem to offer credence to allegations by Kyagulanyi – his main challenger in this year’s presidential elections who denounced the results claiming massive electoral fraud and rigging in favour of the NRM leader.
Kyagulanyi also claims that the NUP got more than 61 MPs but the rest of his party’s parliamentary candidates were cheated of their victory.
The Electoral Commission (EC) too has acknowledged that there were cases of electoral malpractices such as ballot stuffing which led to some polling stations having more votes cast than the registered voters.
The EC also mentioned grabbing of polling materials including declaration of results forms as part of the malpractices which forced it to cancel results from 83 polling stations.
While the EC says that such malpractices were committed by unknown people, many areas reported the direct involvement of armed groups that raided polling stations and scared away the candidates’ agents before committing the said illegalities.
For instance, in Rakai district, voters at Kibuuka C/U, Lwoyo and Kyanika polling stations in Lwamaggwa sub county were forced to burn some six ballot boxes and their contents after a group of armed men driving in an army truck and a Toyota Harrier with covered number plates raided and stuffed the ballot boxes with pre-ticked ballots.
Besides cheating, Museveni also blamed NRM’s loss in Buganda on the widespread land evictions. He promised to call the MPs again to discuss the issue further and find a way forward.
He also said that the ruling party needs to put emphasis on improving household incomes – an area he said many NRM leaders had ignored.
For the MPs who lost their re-election bids, Museveni advised them to form a savings and credit cooperative society (SACCO) through which he can channel support for them to survive outside Parliament.