Recently the Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of High court judge Lydia Mugambe nullifying the election of NRM’s Nathan Igeme Nabeta as MP for Jinja Municipality East.
However, unlike the High court that declared Forum for Democratic Change’s (FDC) Paul Mwiru as the duly elected MP, the appeals court ordered a by-election. For the last three weeks, candidates have been canvassing votes in the constituency and tomorrow, Thursday, the people will decide who their MP will be. Baker Batte Lule spoke to Mwiru, Nabeta’s main challenger.
What do you make of the Court of Appeal ruling?
The judgement, despite its half justice provisioning, redeemed the power of the people. They had elected a different person but because of the impunity of the state another candidate was declared winner.
Reclaiming the people’s power to get back their mandate must be exercised given the conduct of someone [Nabeta] who was imposed on them and how he has performed. For me, it was largely a success for the people of Jinja Municipality East constituency.
What were your misgivings about the judgement?
I went to court challenging the declaration of results using falsified declaration of results forms. I was in possession of the correct DR forms. The High court agreed with me and even the Court of Appeal agreed with me that actually the DR form used to declare Nabeta winner was a falsified form.
Their form had more people than those who voted for the woman representative and the president in an election that took place on the same day. The court agreed with me that it was farfetched that there could be an excess of almost 300 voters.
So, for court to say that the results of one polling station would affect the results of other polling stations that were not in issue, the least I can say is that the court arrived at a wrong conclusion. That’s where I have an issue. But by and large, I respect the decision of court.
Does it bother you that there are cases where court is presented with similar facts but arrives at different conclusions?
My case was about numbers and the numbers were favouring me. In my case, they dealt with the law properly; it’s only in the conclusion that they brought in politics of Uganda today. I think that area must be corrected. Otherwise, for the future readers of those judgements, and even the judges who make such judgments, cannot call it full justice.
Almost all cases which the Court of Appeal decided were dismissed. Did this ruling surprise you?
I was confident for the sole reason that mine was about numbers. I was saying I won. This meant that the court had to pronounce itself on who actually won. They had two options; to either declare me winner or the other person. In all our pleadings, nobody prayed for a by-election.
Are you confident about returning as Jinja Municipality East MP?
There has been abuse of trust. Our people in Jinja Municipality East are concerned that when it came to the constitutional amendment [on presidential age limits] Nabeta misrepresented facts; he claimed that people told him to support the amendment to scrap age limits.
He also said that people supported the extension of parliament from five to seven years, which was a lie. The number of votes that will be cast will determine whether people supported the amendment or there was an abuse of their trust. With what I have seen and heard [on the campaign trail], I’m confident the people will speak loudly that they never supported the amendment.
My situation is very different; it’s about abuse of people’s power, misrepresentation of facts. Actually, when I have been consulting, people were saying what is going to happen is more of a referendum to determine whether people supported the amendment or not.
Even during the previous two terms [Nabeta] has been in parliament, he has misrepresented them. Therefore, it’s going to be a question of honest leadership versus dictatorship.
The election is coming almost three months after the constitutional amendments yet Ugandans are known to move on very quickly…
Those are Ugandans in other areas but those of Jinja Municipality East, I have ably explained to them what is at stake and they have perceived the message rightly.
The by-election is [tomorrow]; how do you assess the ground?
The ground is very responsive to my campaign message; the voters have rightly perceived it that a vote for me is a vote for Uganda. And a vote for any of my opponents is a vote against Uganda because I represent the values for which society stands and they look at me as a ray of hope; to send a message to government that the people power needs to be restored.
The people had their power that was taken away from them and this seems to be the culture yet the constitution says power belongs to the people. In my campaigns, I have been talking about the roles of a member of parliament, which is legislation, representation, oversight and appropriation.
But the public seems to want to use this election as a precursor to protecting their power and once they have achieved that, I think I can say, I’m home and dry.
You have complained about ghost voters on the voter’s register and you appealed to the Electoral Commission. How are they responding?
It’s true I had issues with the voters’ register and I made it known to the Electoral Commission. They have given us the register already and my technical team is doing an analysis; so, I will comment on that after they have finished their work.
You’ve also complained about police arresting some of your supporters…
We were trying to move on with police well until they abandoned the way they are supposed to do their work according to the law. That is where I have had issues with them. I talked to the new inspector general of police [Okoth Ochola] and he gave me assurances that under his reign, he will follow the law.
Actually the people who have been arrested, he ordered that they are given bond because it’s their constitutional right and they have been released. I want to say that with the intervention of the new IGP, I think we are on the right course.
I have seen you moving door-to-door canvassing votes. Is it the most effective way of campaigning?
I have been doing door-to-door campaigning just to close the gaps because I have already done many major rallies; so, I wanted to reach out to the people directly.
We have seen the whole FDC brass here. Before this by-election, there was a sharp divide between those who supported Major General Mugisha Muntu and those who supported Patrick Amuriat for FDC leader. Does this mean you have moved on as a party?
The divide in FDC was imaginary; just in the heads of the journalists. I have seen you propping it up. I know there is only one party and we made it categorically clear that the leadership of the party wasn’t an issue but there were issues that we thought we should discuss internally within the party. But that wouldn’t hinder the party from going on.
I have heard allegations of money changing hands to try and influence the election.
I’m not scared at all. I have made people understand that it’s me ‘giving’ them the money. Before I brought this by-election, no one was giving money to people. People also know that money can buy food, clothes, etc but it cannot buy their hearts.
Can you predict by what percentage you expect to win?
I’m very sure just like day follows night that I will win. The support that people have given me is overwhelming. I have no doubt in my mind that this will be a landslide victory. I can comfortably say that winning will be as easy as cutting through butter because of the hard work.
I think I will win with about 80 percent and leave the 20 to other candidates. There are many fringe candidates who were brought by the NRM to try and divide the vote but I think society will place them in their rightful positions in this contest.