The primary battle to earn the ruling NRM endorsement for the 2011 elections ended almost a week ago.
But details of how the fraternal rivalries played out at the parliamentary and local council level reveal a rather sordid story.
Ballot papers for the NRM primary elections were sold to some candidates on the streets of Kampala at Shs 5,000 each, fresh information about the largely discredited polls shows.
The Observer has been told that in some instances, boxes stuffed with ballots sold at Shs 5m and 3m for MP and local council chairperson aspirants respectively.
The people who were selling the ballot papers, we have learnt, had the capacity to supply as many ballot papers as a buyer was willing to pay for.
A one Julius Musinguzi was arrested and detained at Wandegeya Police Station as he tried to sell ballot papers to Nakawa deputy RDC, Fred Bamwine who was also seeking the NRM ticket to run for MP in Kampala Central.
Bamwine told The Observer that he got information about the scam on August 29, 2010, a day before the NRM primaries. “They were selling ballot papers each at Shs 5,000. I bought 29 ballot papers and followed the boy (Julius Musinguzi) and made an order for ballot papers for Shs 10m.”
Bamwine says he then informed Police and the NRM Secretary General’s office that sent officials to help arrest Musinguzi at Makerere Kikoni.
Bamwine, however, says the NRM Electoral Commission hasn’t used that evidence to investigate irregularities that marred the ruling party’s internal elections. “I expected my leaders to start from there, but all they did was postponing the (Kampala) elections for four days. It is all about incompetence.”
However, Israel Kayonde, a commissioner with the NRM electoral commission said those were simply conmen vending fake ballot papers to unsuspecting candidates.
His comments were, however, dismissed by President Museveni’s press secretary, Tamale Mirundi who said that he saw genuine ballot papers on sale. “It is a fact that people were selling heaps of ballot papers on Kampala streets before election time. What amazes me is that the NRM electoral commission has not bothered to find out the source of these ballot papers,” he said.
According to Mirundi, ballot papers could only have been either smuggled from the company that printed them or from the custody of the NRM electoral body.
The Observer has learnt that the voting materials were printed from The New Vision Printing and Publishing Corporation.
In fact Bamwine says that Musinguzi who was arrested works with The New Vision and also volunteers with the NRM electoral commission.
“New Vision printed the ballot papers and Musinguzi works with The New Vision and NRM electoral commission,” he said.
The Observer has also learnt from reliable sources that there wasn’t enough security to protect the ballot papers at the government owned publishing house.
“They (ballot papers) were left there in plenty. If anyone was interested in them, they would take them,” said a source with access to the printer.
He adds that security around these NRM voting materials was only beefed up after reports of rigging had emerged. The NRM primaries were first held on August 30, but later postponed in different parts of the country because of electoral irregularities. Mirundi blamed the party’s electoral body for the mess.
The Observer has seen a memo dated September 4, 2010 in which Felistus Magomu, the NRM Electoral Commission Chairperson concedes that the NRM ballot papers were stolen.
“It has come to the attention of the NRM electoral commission that ballot papers which were dispatched to Kampala in the evening of September 3, 2010 have been stolen and are in the hands of unscrupulous people who intend to rig the elections in Kampala,” she said. The memo was, however, silent on punishing the perpetrators of the vice.
Bamwine said the NRM did not put in place adequate structures to handle the polls and never sensitized people about the exercise.
He also says members of the opposition registered as NRM and in the process inflated the NRM register which he says doesn’t tally with records of the national registers and village registers.
For instance, he says in Old Kampala many Somali, Sudanese and Congolese refugees registered as NRM voters. Also on the register, he says are primary and secondary school students that he says were each paid Shs 2,000 to register and vote.
Mirundi and Bamwine’s accounts are similar to what people have said about the irregularities that marred the internal elections in different parts of the country.
For instance, NRM Deputy Secretary General Dorothy Hyuha was reportedly caught with ballot papers in Butaleja where she lost in the party primaries.
In Vurra County in Arua, Minister Simon Ejua was reportedly beaten by irate supporters of a rival candidate when he was found in possession of several ballot papers.
In Butambala, Mariam Nalubega accused Education minister Namirembe Bitamazire’s agents of bringing pre-ticked ballot papers.
In Jinja Municipality West, Zaake Kibedi accused his opponent of distributing election materials, inflating the voters’ register by ferrying in outsiders to vote.
Herbert Mulekwa who lost the Sironko district chairman race also complained of ballot stuffing in the district.
Dr. Alex Kamugisha who lost in Rujumbura accused Brig Jim Muhwezi of intimidating, and using veterans to chase away his agents from polling stations.
He also claimed voting materials were deliberately delayed in areas where he commanded support.
In Kaabong, State minister Rev Fr Simon Lokodo was accused of personally distributing election materials in his own race and chasing away his rivals’ agents.
In Kaliro, State Minister for Trade Nelson Gaggawala who eventually won, kicked ballot boxes after disagreeing with polling officials.
Some officials in the area were also found with blank ballot papers. In Okoro Sub-county, State minister for Energy, Simon D’ujanga said instead of ballot papers, polling officials used exercise book papers for voting.
In Ndorwa West, Charles Musekura who lost to David Bahati complained of intimidation, tampering with election materials and voting beyond the set hours.