Massive bribery and violence that was witnessed in the primaries for the ruling NRM party has left most incumbents shocked but not done as many have vowed to mount an explosive rebuttal as independents in the general elections.
The threat of defiance by many senior party cadres to go against their own oath not to run as independents comes against a new warning of expulsion from the party that was issued this week by the party’s technocrats.
But some within the party believe the threat of expulsion is largely hollow because the party failed to deliver a free and fair election as exemplified by runaway bribery and vote-stuffing including by one where police officer was involved.
Whereas the results portray a major revolt against NRM incumbents, the irregularities are giving losers a perfect excuse to come back and run as independents.
As Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanya pointed out, failure by the NRM Electoral Commission to deliver a free and fair election has given good ground for many to contest as independents.
“Standing as an independent is an individual decision, ” Oulanya told a local daily adding: “If you say I should not contest as independent, then you must deliver a free and fair election.”
Indeed, the defeat for the powerful ministers and MPs did not go down well for many who say they were beaten unfairly.
In Busoga region, most incumbents lost the primaries in dramatic fashion.
These included Lands Minister Daudi Migereko who lost to a one Pastor Nelson Lufafa. Sources say that Migereko’s frustration with some incidents of rigging did not stop NRM district Administrator Michael Kasede from announcing Lufafa as winner.
Another big loser in Busoga is Works State Minister Asuman Kiyingi, who lost to Maurice Kibalya for the Bugabula South NRM flag bearer. But Kiyingi vowed to revenge against Kibalya, whom he also defeated in 2010 general elections after Kibalya won the primaries.
Jinja Woman MP Agnes Nabirye was trounced by Loy Katali with a big margin of some 11,000 votes. Embattled Kagoma County MP Fredric Mbagadhi Nkayi did not survive defeat nor did incumbent Martin Kisule Muzale who lost to former Minister Isaac Isanga Musumba.
Bugisu region witnessed another near clean sweep of the old guard as witnessed by the defeat of powerful energy minister Irene Muloni, and Mujaasi
Katakwi Woman MP and Education Minister Jessica Alupo, Bunyole County East MP Emmanuel Ddombo and sitting Butalejja Woman MP Florence Nebanda all lost in the party primaries but have vowed to contest as independents.
In the central, the story is not any different. ICT state Minister Nnyombi Thembo lost to freshman and former police publicist Simeo Muwanga Nsubuga for the Kasanda South constituency.
Another former Police officer Judith Nabakooba trounced long-time Woman MP formerly for Mubende and now for Mityana Sylvia Namabidde. Sources close to Namabidde say the legislator may simply take leave of politics after she allegedly got fed up with the confusion.
Accusations of partisanship among Police officers did not stop serving police officers from openly congratulating their colleagues for winning in the party primaries. Former Police spokesperson Idi Ibin Ssenkumbi spent Wednesday sending congratulatory messages to colleagues for winning in the NRM primaries.
In Western Uganda, powerful Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kahinda Otafiire was left spitting fire and vowing to stand as independent after he was defeated by a retired army captain Donozio Kahonda, who is currently serving a prison sentence.
The confusion and resultant rigging and violence has attracted condemnation and ridicule from the opposition as well as other democracy-loving Ugandans. On the other hand, the violence raised scepticism and fear across the population that the coming elections will be as chaotic.
But within the NRM itself, there were voices reason and admission that the primaries were ill-organised and that the party had neither capacity nor resources to manage the entire exercise.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament Oulanya, who pulled off victory against Ocan Johnson for the Omoro county flag, said: “We were trying to do things that were way beyond our capacity to handle. If there was sufficient money, time and personnel, they would have delivered something good the way the Electoral Commission does.”
If allegations of massive voter bribery and open rigging are anything to go by, as Oulanya points out, his colleagues that lost in the muddy process are justified.
Indeed many losers feel the NRM electoral commission bungled the entire process and therefore believe they have lost unfairly. But if the party takes a stringent stand against its rebellious members, it may be playing in the hands of the opposition, especially its former Secretary General Amama Mbabazi, whom they fear is standing on the fence to attract disgruntled NRM members.