Gilbert Agaba, a former East African Legislative Assembly -EALA candidate has come out to describe the recent election as a sham.
On the 29th September 2022, Uganda conducted the EALA election and Members of the 11th Parliament voted for nine Ugandans to represent the country in the regional body.
According to the results released by the Speaker of Parliament Anita Among, all the six incumbent National Resistance Movement -NRM MPs namely Rose Akol who garnered 422 votes, Namara Dennis 415 votes, Kakooza James 405 votes, George Odongo 403 votes, Musamali Pau 401 votes and Mugenyi Mary 367 votes retained their seats.
Also declared winner were Independent NRM-leaning candidates Veronica Kadogo with 383 votes and Amongin Jacquiline with 338 votes. The two are former Women members of the 9th and 10th Parliaments representing Buyende and Ngora districts respectively.
Democratic Party (DP)’s Gerald Siranda is the only Opposition candidate who was declared winner with 233 votes.
Agaba, an independent who is currently contesting the election, came close with 210 votes. In his statement to journalists on Monday, he described the election as a sham, citing mistakes on the ballot paper, early voting before campaigns, failure to witness ballot paper opening among others.
“We were prepared for an election but we ended up in a sham election,” Agaba said. “It is not what we expected. It started with the arrangement of the ballot paper. It was not arranged in alphabetical order, they started with the six NRM candidates, they fixed in between two (NRM – leaning) independents, and then they came to political parties and again came to independents. So there was no arrangement.”
He alleges that the manner in which the ballot paper was designed shows that the election was predetermined since all the declared winners were listed at the top of the ballot paper. Agaba also complains that his name together with that of another candidate, Moses Ategeka appeared in one box on the ballot paper, something that must have confused his voters.
Also contested by Agaba is the procedure of voting, which he says did not follow the normal roll call election procedure in parliament. He adds that the early voting before campaigns disadvantaged several candidates since the MPs who were supposed to cast votes in their favor did not get a chance to know the candidates, listen to their manifesto.
Earlier on the voting day, Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa 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.
This caused commotion later when Aringa South MP, Alioni Odria briefly interrupted the proceedings of parliament claiming that as MPs were busy listening to contestants, ballot boxes were already being stuffed.
After the declaration of the results, Bugiri Municipality MP Asumani Basalirwa requested that in future, parliament considers amending some aspects of the rules governing the EALA election like giving the Speaker-specific powers to allow for early voting to forestall accusations of vote rigging like those raised today by Odria.
“They started voting without the knowledge of candidates and their agents. By 10:30 am, all candidates and MPs were in the House listening to other candidates. Meanwhile, voting was taking place in the tent,” Agaba says.
The former candidate says that their failure to witness the opening of the ballots and ascertaining that the ballot boxes were empty only points to a sham election.
Agaba, an expert in customs management, also queries the temporary cubicles in which MPs were choosing their favorite candidates, saying that these could have aided rigging.
He also questions the election numbers given by the Speaker, alleging that these were on a higher side given that several MPs had travelled to Israel, the boycott by the 57 National Unity Platform (NUP) MPs and others.
According to Agaba, a total of 84 MPs did not participate in the election.
He says that his efforts to access the day’s voter register and declaration of results form have to date been futile. Agaba argues that he garnered 229 votes contrary to the 210 votes that the Speaker declared.
Agaba says that he is not satisfied with the process and outcome of the election and that he will be seeking redress from court.
The current term of the 4th East African Legislative Assembly ends on December 17th, 2022. EALA is an organ of the East African Community -EAC established under Article 9 of the Treaty for the establishment of the East African Community.
The Assembly has a Membership comprising nine members elected by each Partner State; ex-officio members consisting of the Minister or Assistant Minister responsible for the East African Community Affairs from each Partner State; the Secretary-General and the Counsel to the Community.
Currently, the Assembly has 54 elected Members; and 8 ex-officio Members. Each of the East African Community member countries has to send nine legislators to the Arusha-based Assembly. The term of the current EALA members ends this year and elections are scheduled for December.
Elected representatives to EALA from the 7 Member States of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC serve a five-year tenure. The current 4th Assembly has 62 members, whose term commenced in 2017.
According to Article 50 of the East African Community Treaty, members are elected by their respective countries’ national legislatures. Article 50 also requires the said members to reflect their country’s political parties, opinions, gender composition, and other special groups.