The day my husband told me he was going to stand for a political position, my heart skipped many bits. I don’t come from a family of politics and neither does he. I knew politicians to be crooks and I knew my husband was going to change. But as a wife I prayed for guidance and strength because I knew I had to support him to improve the community we all loved with one heart.
He stood for the position of Local Councilor III Chairman in an area that he was born, where he grew up and where he is married and where our children were born. This community knew his family very well and knew him as well so we knew that he had a very good chance to win the elections. The current Councilor had been in office for three terms and had not done much for the community.
My husband decided to stand under the National resistance Movement elections because it was a party whose ideology he believed in. The then current councilor was also in the same party and was determined to do everything to win the elections.
I will never forget the day of the elections. Prior to the elections we did our best to reach the registered voters under the NRM party by phone, messages and many he met on one on one basis. During the elections the party officials deliberately refused to use the national Identity cards to identify the voters and insisted on the political party cards. These party cards were distributed to people who were not registered members in our parish and the number of people who were openly brought from out parish was so overwhelming. From the beginning of the elections we could tell that there was vote rigging and what was so shocking was the manner in which it was done. It was done openly in our faces without shame or fear. We were abused during the elections in the local language but we stood our grounds.
Before the elections we had petitioned the party chairman to holt the elections because the then current councilor was no longer a resident of the parish and was therefore not eligible to stand for the elections. We followed up this petition but we were not given any remedies as there were many flows in the political party’s legal system. I remember the Legal Counsel of the party practically chased us out of his office before he could hear our case and sent us back to the registrar of the party who was in charge of our area. She deliberately sat on the petition and didn’t pick any of our phone calls and even did not appear the day of the elections.
The outcome of the election was so obvious because from the beginning we could see that our opponent had organized his ghost voters and the real voters were missing on the list of registered voters. What was so amazing was that we paid and received a copy of the registered voters from the party headquarters and on the day of voting, this register was so different from the list of registered voters that was presented to the presiding officials.
I for one had a registered party card and I remember registering on time but I was not allowed to vote. My name appeared on the registered list of voters from the party headquarters but did not appear on the list of the presiding officers. I was made to walk up and down the various polling stations and I could hear the opponents’ officials talking and laughing about me because I was not able to vote for my candidate who happened to be my husband.
In addition to all the mishaps that happened that day, the election materials arrived very late and it rained for almost an hour and yet the officials refused to extend the voting time to allow our voters to come and vote.
Our opponent won by about 30 voters even after all the vote rigging. I remember all the people who had been bribed celebrated that day. I remember our opponent came to me and told me that we should try next time and that these things happen. I didn’t have energy to reply him. He walked with a huge following to the nearest bar where they celebrated.
It was heart breaking because we had put in our all but we never lost hope. We met with a couple of friends to re strategize. We decided that my husband would come as an independent candidate. We secretly went ahead and filled out forms for independent and started looking for contacts for voters registered in our parish. This is when the hard work really started because the number of voters registered in the parish was more than those registered under the political party.
For the national elections the number of candidates standing for the same position rose to Six but this didn’t threaten us. We sent out messages to the registered voters campaigning and my husband met with many of the voters for the following weeks leading to the national elections. This was a more nerve wrecking race because all the candidates were determined to win the elections.
We prayed to God and gave it our all. We received many insults on our phones and so many horrible stories were circulating about us in the community but this didn’t deter us from our mission. Our main goal was to have change in our community, we were tired of people taking advantage of us. This time was not easy for us, there were many divergent views in our camp and peoples tempers occasionally surfaced but we still worked as a team to the end.
Throughout I kept wondering what candidates standing for member of parliament were going through because ours was a much smaller position but gosh the pressure and tension was over the roof. We slept, eat and dreamt about the Local Council elections. We received phones calls from different people giving us their views on how to handle the campaigns. Many candidates for the position of member of parliament were always in our parish trying to find out which candidate was strong so that they could partner with them. We were looked at as the losers. Many people actually thought that we would be the last and we were a joke everywhere we went, but this didn’t deter us.
On the final day of elections at 4pm, the polling stations were closed and vote counting started at about 5pm. My heart was racing and for some reason everyone else was so calm, it was like they had already seen the future. When the results for the final polling station were announced we were declared the WINNERS, I was overwhelmed with joy but so shocked at the same time. We won by only eight votes.
Elections are for the strong hearted because if you have a weak heart you can collapse. I remember that day I was up and down making sure that there was no foul play at any of the polling stations. However with foul play we still won the elections. Now the new story that was circulating was that we rigged the elections. Later that evening my husband was called to the tally Centre so that he could get the official declaration of the results. Since we were busy the whole day his battery run out and we were not able to communicate with him until about midnight when I was driven with a couple of friends to the tally Centre. I found him and we slept at the tally Centre waiting for the results to be read until the next day in the evening. Apparently at the tally Centre is where the results can be altered and if you are not there in person then you might have to pursue your case in court.
What is so amusing is that if the registrar makes a mistake and announces the wrong candidate as the winner you still have to wait and pursue the case in court. Once the results have been announced that is end. Now the court cases in Uganda take up to four years and that is practically the term of the candidate. So the battle was still not yet over, we were still under pressure. After not sleeping for almost a week we were awake for another day waiting and listening for the official announcement of the results.
Finally the next day the results for our parish were announced about 5pm and he was able to receive the official declaration of the results, the official document that pronounces him as the winner of the election. When we returned back home, there were rumors that had circulated that we had been arrested for vote rigging and we were in police custody the whole night. It was so funny and amazing that the stories never stopped and even up to today there are many stories that come up and we just laugh about them.
This election process was an eye opener for me, we are always blaming the President and the Government for the flows in various systems and yet it is us the citizens who are in these same positions of Government abusing the system. Corruption in Uganda is over and beyond what any one can imagine. We still have a long fight ahead of us and until we decide to unite and fight together we shall not be able to change anything.
I witnessed people undressing in the tally Centre because many had sold their properties and invested in the election process and had lost. There was a lot of bribery at the tally Centre, from the guards at the gate to the people reading out the final official results. Many of us abuse the powers that are entrusted to us. Many people fought at the Centre because they believed that the opponents forged the results. As all this was happening we were on tension because we didn’t know what to expect since it was our first time at the tally Centre. All we did was pray and with the support of friends and family who kept checking on us and sending us food we had the strength to make sure that we didn’t disappoint the members in our community.
The struggle continues.