Deafening noise, allegations of voter bribery and vote rigging have today characterized the campaigns for Members of the East African Legislative Assembly in Kampala.
28 candidates who were nominated for the nine seats have been making their pitches to legislators today in a sitting presided over by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa. According to Article 50 of the East African Community Protocol, members of EALA are elected by the National Parliaments of the respective countries.
For most candidates, it was close to impossible to hear their campaign as legislators especially from the ruling NRM side opted to shout them out before they even start making their speeches. The seven minutes which were granted to each contestant would largely be spent in shouting matches with the MPs.
This noise has been particularly intense for the six NRM candidates, Paul Musamali, Mary Mugenyi, George Odongo, James Kakooza, Denis Namara and Rose Okol. Less than two minutes into their campaign speeches, the MPs would shout them down with chants, “Enough, enough, enough.
Also, unable to make any audible presentation was the FDC candidate, Harold Kaija, UPC candidate, Fred Ebil and the DP candidate Gerald Siranda. For a brief moment, he was audible, Siranda reminded parliament that has been largely NRM after the boycott of the election by the National Unity Platform, about the cooperation agreement that his party signed with president Yoweri Museveni of the NRM.
“My party has signed a cooperation agreement with you the National Resistance Movement. I am in the opposition but I believe in national unity; I am for dialogue…, we signed a cooperation agreement so don’t let me down,” Siranda said.
The only contestants who were allowed to campaign with minimal interruptions are those with very little name recognition.
Earlier in the day, the MP for Aringa South Alion Odira briefly interrupted the proceedings of parliament claiming that as MPs were busy listening to contestants, ballot boxes were already being stuffed. Odira, who was shouting at the top of his voice, wondered how ballot boxes had ticked ballots before polling stations were opened. He kept shouting until the Deputy Speaker threatened to throw him out of the chambers if he didn’t stop shouting.
However, about 10 minutes later, Tayeebwa read a letter from the Speaker of Parliament Anita Among stating that she had authorized several MPs to vote early as they had commitments elsewhere. Voting is currently taking place in the parliamentary parking and results are expected at around 5 pm.
Meanwhile, there are also allegations that MPs demanded money from the EALA contestants. Speaking on the condition of anonymity not to jeopardize their chances of winning, several contestants told URN that MPs wouldn’t accept to be courted for their votes without giving them money first.“If you have no money, you can’t win any election in Uganda,” one contestant said.
“The guy invites you claiming that he has organized MPs for you to ask for votes, but the moment you get there, they don’t want to listen to anything other than how much you are giving,” another contestant said. Four MPs talked to on this matter confirmed receiving and also giving money. “I can tell you he gave me 1.5 million Shillings to vote for him and I have been a bit desperate these days, I took it,” one MP said.
Another one said yesterday during the dinner that marks the end of the current session before parliament goes to recess, he distributed money to colleagues to vote for her candidate. “I gave a number of them 100,000 Shillings and they promised to vote for my candidate. When you heard the noise, they made cheering my candidate you don’t think it was for nothing,” another MP said. One contestant is said to have spent more than 500 million Shillings on bribing MPs.
“He has given almost all of us 1 million Shillings including those MPs from NUP before their party told them to stay out of the election,” another MP told Uganda Radio Network.
Claims of bribery to do legislative work are not new in the Ugandan parliament. However, they came to the fore in 2005 when MPs in the Seventh Parliament were each given 5 million to amend the constitution to remove term limits. Not long ago, stories emerged that MPs in the current parliament each were given 40 million Shillings for purposes still obscure.
The speaker of parliament Anita Among who MPs said personally gave out the money at her home, has vehemently denied the charge.
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