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Divisions in NRM, religion played a role in Rukungiri polls

By Umaru Kashaka

Added 1st June 2018 07:08 PM

Rukungiri is home of founding FDC party president and four-time presidential contender, Dr Kizza Besigye

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Rukungiri is home of founding FDC party president and four-time presidential contender, Dr Kizza Besigye

As if reading from the same page, President Yoweri Museveni and local electoral observers have said internal divisions in National Resistance Movement (NRM) and the religious factor had implications on who was to win Rukungiri by-election.

Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate Betty Muzanira won the tight race after garnering 50,611 votes against NRM candidate Winifred Masiko’s 46,329.

Independent Prisca Mbaguta polled 993 votes and People's Progress Party’s Fabith Kukundakwe got 183.

Museveni, who is also NRM’s national chairman, in a statement on Friday congratulated the NRM mobilisers in Rukungiri for the good work they did in the election.

Rukungiri is home of founding FDC party president and four-time presidential contender, Dr Kizza Besigye.

“In spite of the divisions among the NRM leaders and attempts to use religion (Catholics vs Protestants) and tribe (Bakiga vs Bahororo-Banyakore), Masiko won in 114 polling stations out of the total of 280, albeit sometimes, with less majority than before,” Museveni said.

He said that due to the weakness on the side of the police and the NRM leaders, he also heard there was intimidation of voters by “hooligans from Kampala and other areas”.

“I salute those who defied those odds and voted for the NRM,” the President, who camped in Rukungiri for two days to drum up support for Masiko, said.

He also said his programmes of wealth creation for the masses, especially the youth, would continue.

“Some of those groups helped in winning some parts of the municipality. Winning in the big sub-counties of Nyakishenyi and Nyarushanje is on account of the steadfastness of our supporters in spite of the confusion among the leaders,” Museveni said. 

On the same page

Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), which deployed over 20 observers, said the Opposition seemed united from the very on-set of the by-election and the NRM was only able to resolve internal divisions just a couple of days to the election date.

“These had implications on who was bound to take the day. Secondly, the religious factor was eminent in this election.  Candidates exploited religious denomination lines during campaigns,” the statement issued by Crispin Kaheru, the CCEDU coordinator, said.

Thirdly, CCEDU said, this election became inevitably aggressive considering that it was handled by the political big wigs from both the NRM and the Opposition.

“Key NRM figures – retired and those in active politics campaigned for the NRM leaning candidates.  Notable figures from the Opposition political parties were on ground to tenaciously campaign for the FDC candidate, and protect the vote even in the remote villages of Rukungiri,” the electoral observers said.

EC applauded

They noted that the Electoral Commission (EC) distinguished itself as a professional administrator and arbiter of the election despite the generally tense context in which the election was conducted.

“Although there was visible security deployment in most urban areas in Rukungiri, the presence of security personnel in most places was not of an intrusive nature.  However, in some places especially in the rural areas, security involvement in the election almost threatened the credibility of the process,” CCEDU said.

CCEDU argued that the competitiveness of the election coupled with the historical context of Rukungiri drew active participation from the local voters.

“This accounts for the generally high voter turnout – about 57%.  For a by-election, this is comparatively a high voter turnout.”

It, however, said this by-election continued to expose the challenges of elections in Uganda such as the soaring cost of several elections, electoral violence and intimidation among others.

“These vices reared their ugly head again in this election.  Fixing these incessant challenges is fundamental to the restoration of normality and respect for rule of law in Uganda,” CCEDU stated.

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