A caucus of the ruling National Resistance Movement party yesterday descended into war of words, threats of fist fight, noise and chaos at State House Entebbe at the beginning of vote tallying for candidates vying for East African Legislative Assembly seats on the ruling National Resistance Movement ticket.
At the NRM Parliamentary caucus convened by President Yoweri Museveni to choose flag bearers for the regional assembly seats, fierce antagonism emerged pitting Electoral Commission Chairperson Dr Tanga Odoi against Members of Parliament.
In series of sustained heated exchanges, both sides cast blames on each other with accusations and counter accusations of messing up the process by allegedly changing election guidelines in the middle of the process.
It emerged that the caucus had agreed to have six regions from which flag-bearers would be chosen. These included Kampala, Central, Northern, Western, Eastern and Special Interests Groups contrary to seven that were earlier proposed to accommodate women as a different category.
Sources say this position was arrived at following contentious arguments on whether to make selections on the basis of region or simply make provision for women and choose the rest on merit.
The voting revealed that some caucus members had made seven selections which were ironically retained on the final ballot paper. Attempts by Dr Tanga Odoi to nullify ballots with seven selections attracted a sustained riotous reaction forcing the caucus to adjourn prematurely.
“You cannot take me to school and you cannot change the rules of the game at the time of voting,” said a visibly irritated Tanga Odoi, but MPs were unrelenting in their loud objections. This quickly drove the room into a heated, chaotic exchange.
Attempts by Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa to settle the growing disharmony were not accorded any attention.
At this stage NRM national Vice Chairperson Al Hajji Mozes Kigongo intervened.
“Cool down please, this is a very minor issue,” Kigongo pleaded. “Honorable Members if we really start quarrelling like this then this is not going to work,” added Kigongo, this time gaining some attention.
Dr Tanga Odoi tried to make a point but Chief Whip Nankabirwa grabbed his microphone.
“Let the chairman of the Electoral Commission read out the names and whether you wrote six or seven it will still be considered,” Kigongo guided to a thunderous applause from caucus members.
However, before his guidance could settle in, Odoi fired another salvo at the Members of Parliament that further exacerbated the situation. “I respect you as honorable Members of Parliament but when you realize you made a mistake along the way, you cannot change the rules of the game through intimidation. You think your noise will make a difference?” Odoi charged.
At this point journalists were asked to leave the room.
Information soon thereafter filtered in that the elections were annulled altogether and that fresh ones would be conducted on Wednesday at 2.00pm.
“The Vice Chairperson intervened and said for purposes of avoiding litigation, let us postpone the elections and vote tomorrow,” said Gordon Alinda, the Ishaka Municipality MP shortly after the said postponement.
It later emerged that NRM’s Central Executive Committee led by President Yoweri Museveni was engaging with the party’s Electoral Commission officials to resolve the impasse.
Senior Presidential Press Secretary Don Innocent Wanyama confirmed the engagement and said Dr Tanga Odoi will issue a statement in the morning hours of Wednesday on the official party position.
“The Electoral Commission team is currently meeting with the party Chairman (President Museveni) and Dr Tanga Odoi will be communicating their joint position,” Wanyama said.
Withdrawals from the race
Shortly before the chaos, news was abounding regarding Emmanuel Dombo and Joseph Kif’omusana’s withdrawal from the race, both former MPs for Bunyole East and Nakifuma County respectively.
A score of other candidates had also followed suit with their withdrawals.
Speaking to Daily Monitor, Dombo blamed his withdrawal on “changing the rules in the middle of the process.”
He also ruled out fairness in the process. “How can it be free and fair when you have to change the rules in the middle of the process? We were given new nomination forms. I was given new forms to contest as an easterner. Going to EALA, I don’t have to be an Easterner,” Dombo argued.
He, however, ruled out any possibilities of seeking legal redress insisting that his withdrawal was intended to invite the party to streamline such an occurrence in the future.
“There will be no litigation. I am a member of the party and I have communicated my position and hope action will be taken in future,” Dombo said.
On his part, Kif’omusana told Daily Monitor that his withdrawal was a result of continued consensus among central delegates and what he termed as ‘pressure from within.’
“I withdrew after consultations with senior members of the party especially those from the central region because in politics, you work with other people. When you see people you are working with are running away from you, what do you do?” asked Kif’omusana.
Kif’omusana was running against former Kakuuto MP Mathias Kasamba who apparently is running unopposed for the slot allocated to central region.
Kasamba also refrained from celebrating, saying he was awaiting official confirmation by the party’s Electoral Commission.
“I can confirm that Kif’omusana has made a written submission of his withdrawal from the race but I have to be patient and await the position of the party,” Kasamba said.
Ironically, Kif’omusana’s name was nonetheless have appeared on the final ballot paper that was used on the now botched polls.
Lumumba, Odoi clash
Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa told Daily Monitor that Secretary General Justine Kasule Lumumba and the Electoral Commission chairperson Dr Tanga Odoi disagreed on the number of flag bearers the party should endorse.
“There was mismatch between the Secretary General who wanted the caucus to elect 6 people and the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission who wanted 7 members from whom Parliament would choose,” Nankabirwa said. She however added that the caucus agreed with Lumumba because it was the party’s original position.
Out of the 9 slots, NRM will take home 6 position while the remainder is to be shared amongst opposition political parties represented in Parliament and independents.
Manjia MP John Baptist Nambeshe blamed Odoi for impasse, accusing him of ‘dictatorial tendencies’, ‘messing up the process’ and being’ disrespectful to Members of Parliament.’
“People came with excitement expecting smooth, free and fair elections but the procedures have been flouted and we blame it on the EC Chair (Tanga Odoi) who is dictatorial,” said Nambeshe.
The caucus members expressed displeasure at the turn of events but remained hopeful that a solution would be found.
The candidates, at the time of the elections included the following.
1. Kif’omusana Joseph Mugambe
2. Kasamba Mathias
1. Namirembe Sophie Bbale
2. Nsanja Patrick Kayongo
3. Faridah Mayanja Mpiima
4. Kinyera Stella
5. Babu Francis
6. Kagingo Sarah
1. Muwuma Milton Kalulu
2. Musamali Paul
1. Aber Lillian
2. Awich Pollar
3. Anek Mancy Obita
4. Stephen Odongo
5. Amongin Jane Francis Okuli
6. Oleru Huda
7. Lanyero Sarah Ochieng
1. Mushemeza Elijah
2. Musinguzi Yonah
3. Namara Denis
4. Banyenzaki Henry
5. Kwemara William
1. Mary Mugyenyi
2. Mwebaza Sarah
3. Sendi Mary Byangire
4. Nalonyo Mugide Mary
5. Akol Rose Okullu
SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS
1. Kanushu Laura
2. Kembabazi Dianah
3. Ssekabira Dennis
4. David Lewis
5. Murangira Ambrose
6. Werikhe Christopher Peter
7. Nabulya Teopista Sentongo
8. Tweheyo James
9. Muhumuza Seith
DAILY MONITORLumumba, Odoi clash in chaotic NRM EALA polls, how it all