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Primaries: NRM braces for violence

NRM Secretary General Kasule Lumumba and NRM EC chairman Tanga Odoi

As candidates make last-ditch efforts to win the hearts and souls of voters, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) is fearful that the chaotic ghosts that haunted the party primaries in 2010 could return for this year’s elections.

NRM primaries for parliamentary candidates had been scheduled for today but were pushed to October under unclear circumstances. Dr Tanga Odoi, the chairperson of the NRM electoral commission, told The Observer yesterday that the party was working closely with security agencies to ensure a smooth and peaceful process.

He acknowledged that tension in some areas could make violence inevitable given the “I-either-win-or-you-lose” mentality by some politicians.

“We have already informed Gen Kale Kayihura [the inspector general of police] and security is working out a plan of securing the elections,” Odoi said.

Warning shots were fired during last week’s elections to renew NRM structures. In some areas, the polls were marred by violence and accusations of rigging. In Kayunga, police teargased Idah Nantaba, the minister of state for Lands and her supporters after they complained of rigging. Nantaba was defeated by Moses Karangwa, one of the biggest landowners in Kayunga, in the race for NRM district chairperson.  She has since quit the party.

“I will contest as an independent candidate for the Kayunga district woman MP seat next year. This is because a number of people, including Karangwa, are working towards my downfall so I will not give them that chance,” Nantaba said on September 20.

In Budaka, Susan Kataike, the minister of state for Luweero Triangle and the Budaka Woman MP, had to be rescued by police from a mob that wanted to lynch her. Kataike failed in her bid to become the district party treasurer, beaten by Pamela Nasiyo, who until recently belonged to FDC.

Now, Kataike has reportedly told President Museveni she has no interest in defending her parliamentary seat, which Nasiyo also wants. In Lwengo, Muhammed Muyanja Mbabaali lost his position of NRM district chairperson to Mulindwa Birimumaaso by 25 votes. Police was forced to fire live bullets in the air to disperse supporters of the candidates after it was alleged that a polling agent had put pre-ticked papers in the ballot box.

Mbabaali told The Observer yesterday that many of the genuine voters in the district had been stopped from voting.

“They brought in hooligans and people who are not on the register,” he said, adding that he had petitioned the party electoral commission.

Mbabaali said he would contest in the primaries of Bukoto South. In some areas like Amudat, structure elections did not take place at all due to fear of violence. Odoi said they would be organised soon.

For the same reason, elections for the position of the NRM chair in Lubaga division, were called off after the commission concluded that there was a possibility of the exercise turning chaotic.

Should violence mar the NRM primaries this year, it would mean that the party has not learnt lessons from the 2010 episode, which became a subject of a wide-ranging inquiry by a committee headed by Rosemary Seninde, the Wakiso woman MP.

Seninde’s committee made a number of recommendations, stressing the need for a new, clean register of party members.  Seninde told The Observer yesterday that “60 per cent” of their recommendations had been implemented although there were still challenges.

“The major cause of violence is that people do not want to accept that they have lost, especially after pumping in a lot of money,” the MP said.

HOT SPOTS

Odoi said the party EC had mapped out areas where violence could erupt during the primaries. He identified some of the hotspots as Mawokota North were Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde faces IT specialist Grace Kansiime.

In July, Kyambadde tried to block Kansiime’s nomination but Odoi’s commission stood its ground. Kansiime told The Observer yesterday that she had faced some threats.

“I am competing against someone who is very powerful but the people on the ground want change,” she said.

Other areas that need to be watched closely, Odoi said, are Sembabule, where the political camps of Sam Kutesa and Theodore Ssekikubo are always bickering; Lwengo, Adjumani, Kayunga, Bundibugyo, Budaka, Kibuku and Kassanda South, where minister of state for ICT, Nyombi Thembo, will take on Simeo Nsubuga, a former police spokesman in Kampala. 

Odoi had received a complaint from Bunyole East MP Emmanuel Dombo, that some people were being ferried into Butaleja district to disorganize the primaries.

He said the party had undertaken some measures to reduce on the possibility of violence, revealing, for instance, that that in areas where there is a lot of hostility between supporters of different candidates, there will not be joint rallies as stipulated by the party constitution.

Odoi warned all contestants to desist from acts that could provoke violence, saying punitive action, including disqualification, will be taken. He particularly cautioned Nantaba to tread carefully.

“We are aware that even if she is saying that she is coming as an independent, she plans to disrupt the party primaries,” Odoi said. Contacted yesterday, Nantaba declined to talk.

Seninde said yesterday that the key to smooth primaries is a clean register.

“The NRM register still has some problems; there are many people whose names are missing. This needs to be addressed before the elections,” she said.

ekiggundu@observer.ug

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