Heavy deployment as Rukungiri chooses woman MP

Since Wednesday, heavily armed security personnel have been deploying in the western Uganda district of Rukungiri ahead of the May 31 by-election for the district’s Woman MP.

The Military Police on Wednesday evening mounted roadblocks at Buyanja (Omukiragiro) on Ntugamo-Rukungiri road and at Nyakibaare at the junction of Nyarushanje and Nyakishenyi sub counties.

Deputy police spokesman Patrick Onyango said, the heightened security measures are intended to ensure a peaceful election.

This, Onyango said, is after the police learned the FDC youths under the Power 10 group planned to disorganise the election.

On deployment alongside the regular police are different units of UPDF soldiers including the military police, and prisons warders.

Election observers have criticised the heavy deployment with the coordinator of the Citizens’ coalition on electoral democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) Crispin Kaheru describing the Rukungiri Woman MP by-election as a highly securitized affair.

“Judging from the number of senior military officers present and active in the district as well as the level of deployment of the rank and file security personnel, this a highly securitized affair,” Kaheru said.

“It seems apparent that the Electoral Commission (EC) itself is trying to manage an ostensibly overbearing security apparatus to ensure that voters exercise their franchise in a reasonably calm environment without undue interference or intimidation,” he added.

The seat fell vacant on March 22 after the Court of Appeal led by Deputy Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo upheld the High Court’s nullification of Winnie Matsiko’s elections on grounds of voter bribery.

Matsiko is the NRM flag bearer in the by-election and is facing stiff challenge from FDC’s Betty Muzanira and two other candidates, Fabith Kukundakwe (PPP) and Prisca Sezi Mbaguta (independent).

There are 177,086 voters registered at 280 polling stations spread in the district’s 16 sub counties and 87 parishes.

“We are paying keen attention to three of the 16 sub counties of Nyakishenyi, Nyarushanje and Bwambara, which are said to be potential hotspots, based on occurrences in previous elections,” Kaheru said.

Unlike in previous by-elections of this nature, delivery of polling materials to the furthest sub counties of Bikurungu town council, Nyakishenyi sub county, Bwambara sub county and Nyarushanje sub county was done on Wednesday to ensure that materials are at polling stations in time to allow for opening of polling stations on time.