It rained money in Omoro by-elections
The Member of Parliament by-election in Omoro constituency, Gulu District, stands out as one in which the practice of openly paying people to attend a campaign rally was done without shame. Observers report that the people were paid UGX 20,000 ($5.5) each to attend the campaign rallies when President Museveni visited Omoro to canvass support for his National Resistance Movement (NRM) party flag bearer. NRM is the party that has been in power continuously for 37 years.
SecretsKnown has further learned that after the rally, the NRM mobilisers grouped the attendees into cohorts of about 100 people where each group was reportedly given UGX 3 million ($812) to share. This is blatant bribery of voters which is an offense under the electoral laws of Uganda. Unfortunately, the democratic institutions in Uganda are denuded of courageous public officers who can say “NO” to errant acts and unacceptable behavior of the party in power or its agents.
The Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) were allegedly deployed on ground at sub-county level to ensure that at least every potential voter got some cash and happy to vote for the NRM candidate. With cash circulating in billions within the constituency ahead of the by-elections, it is believed that a critical mass of voters in Omoro constituency have received at least UGX 20,000($5.5).
Voting was conducted on Thursday 16 May, 2022 with 6 contestants seeking to replace the departed former Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Jacob Oulanya. These are: Onen Jimmy Walter (IND), Odonga Terence (IND), Tolit Simon Akecha (NUP), Kizza Oscar (ANT), Ojok Andrew Oulanyah (NRM) and Odong Justine (FDC).
The stakes in this election are very high which has caused a number of high-profile government officials to pitch camp, including the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Robina Nabbanja and Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon. Anita Among. All these are using their official public vehicles which borders on misuse of public resources for partisan electioneering.
The license number plates of the vehicles being used by the supporters of the NRM candidates have been deliberately covered or camouflaged, which is a violation of traffic regulations yet no police officer is raising even a finger against this. The bigger question is the premeditated act they intend to use these vehicles for.
Also on the ground is a team of development partners who received accreditation to observe the Omoro by-elections. Expectations are rife that the by-election may mirror the events of Kayunga LC V District Chairperson by-elections which took place in December 2021, and were fraught with irregularities in vote tallying with the NRM candidate eventually declared winner.
SecretsKnown has further learnt that deployment of security and military personnel on the ground is akin to that made for a military operation. Police has mounted roadblocks on several roads in the constituency. It is reported that the constituency offices of the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) whose candidate is strongly backed by the local business community, were broken into twice in a space of one week, by suspected security operatives.
The use of money to induce voters during every election has become an epidemic and a factor in Uganda’s democratic stagnation. When money and over-the-top security deployment are used in tandem to manipulate and control voter consent, the outcome of the election ceases to be an expression of the will of the people, it becomes an expression of the power of money and the might of security forces.