Angry youths today attacked the mayor of River Oli Division in Arua municipality, accusing him of attempting to stuff pre-ticked ballots for the NRM candidate, Nusura Tiperu.
The more than 10 irate youths roughed up Hajji Isa Kato after accusing him of stuffing ballot papers for Tiperu at Kebir Cell polling station. They also pelted with stones Kato's vehicle, registration number UBA 392Z, destroying its windscreen and bonnet. Police officers deployed at the polling station simply looked on as Kato came under attack from the angry youths.
Upon sensing danger, Kato, who belongs to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, sped off to Arua Central police station where he registered a case of assault. He denied any wrong doing and blames the attack on 'hooligans' who he says have invaded the municipality.
"I was from home [and] I was coming to vote. Now, when I reached there, I found a bit of kavuyo [chaos], it was at Kebir. I wanted to see what was happening so that I go and vote. But immediately I got out of my vehicle, I saw a group of youth coming out shouting; 'you’ve come to steal, you’ve come to steal.’ I said 'what have I come to steal? I am coming to vote and I have a right to vote." said Kato.
"They started pushing me here and there. I asked them 'why are you pushing me? I have come to vote.' Then from there someone told me, mayor you first go away. Now when I was opening the vehicle to enter…that was even worse. Others were stoning me, others banging me on the back, others were hitting me and I even have bruises. I jumped inside and if I was not a [good] driver, I would have lost my vehicle and even my life."
The attack on Kato comes just a day after supporters of the now jailed independent candidate Kassiano Wadri were accused of stoning President Yoweri Museveni's motorcade on Monday. One person and Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, Yasin Kawuma was shot dead and more than 34 people including several MPs were arrested on Monday for the alleged attack on Museveni's motorcade.
According to Kato, two of his attackers have been arrested and are locked up at Arua Central police station. Voters in Arua municipality are casting their votes to elect a new area member of parliament after the seat fell vacant in June this year when the area MP Ibrahim Abiriga was gunned down together with his brother and bodyguard Saidi Butele Buga.
The by-election has attracted eight contenders including Alfred Nyakuni, Simon Avutia, Sunday Anguandia, Jackson Atima, Francis Nyero Bavuga Saf, Robert Ejiku and Wadri Kassiano, all independents. The others are DP's Moses Kennedy, Jaffer Alekua of Jeema and FDC's Bruce Musema.
Wadri was unable to cast his ballot as he stayed locked up in Gulu, some 200km away from Arua.