I worked with Nambooze’s campaign team from day 1. We all knew NRM intended to rig the vote but this is the major twist that turned victory to her side.
The election determinants.
25th may 2010 will always remain a day of disbelief as finally NRM’s driven electoral commission announced Nambooze Betty bakireke winner of the hotly contested Mukono North parliamentary by elections.
Many behind the curtains events like; mudslinging, malice, abuses army deployments and counter strategizing determined this race. But one event in which Nambooze managed to hand tie the NRM with its own machinery (army, police and electoral commission) solved the whole drama.
Bakaluba vs Nambooze.
On the ground, it was obvious that Nambooze was a winning candidate; actually NRM itself treated her as the incumbent. From the very beginning NRM made damning mistakes. For very many reasons the government flag bearer Bakaluba mukasa was very un-popular among the electorate. He had been voted into this position in 2001 out of empathy from people who felt pity for him after he had stood and failed on very many occasions. All the time he failed, he had stood as an “independent” but Immediately he was elected he proved a sycophant 3.1.1 by crossing to the ruling party which is not so popular among urban populations. Bakaluba as a parliamentarian didn’t say anything worth representing a big place like Mukono north on top of which he didn’t do anything visible for the people of Mukono besides his own personal business. In 2006, government openly cheated the vote in his favor. To worsen this, they delayed the case for four years a period in which he moved to a down word trend. Throughout this period, he feared the electorate and did do anything to get voters support. By choosing to completely leave this constituency and go to Mukono south, he had made a wise decision but NRM gurus mislead him into political doom by sticking him in this area.
In 2006, in comes Nambooze, who is so articulate, vocal, principled and always fearless when it comes to issues that touch the community. Nambooze is down to ground and having grown up as a meek girl in Mukono town she was popular and herself knew all people and corners of the areas. Being a Mengo official and her coming to populace being pushed by the same made her an un-doubted candidate for the cherished Mengo government.
Then finally the final issue was the timing of these elections played a very big role. Government and court dragged her case for four years to keep her out of parliament but at the end justice had to prevail. It happened at a tricky period for NRM and Bakaluba. Being at time when next elections are barely a year away and when the IPC is pushing for the change of the electoral commission composition, government feared to expose itself in this election.
On the other hand, in March the fire that gutted the Masiro remained a big unsolved mystery. Government itself didn’t come out with a concrete answer to this mystery but rather the president just turned rude to the public and threatened to arrest whoever pointed at it as the cause of this fire. The issue was sleeve solved but it remained deep in people’s hearts more especially the elder population who made a big part of NRM followers. Nambooze had been arrested and detained by government but when released government failed to give a convincing reason for this detention, hence a common man on the ground got empathy for her. Failing to open any case against her proved had proved to everyone that government detained her out of malice and her community minded opinions.
Campaign team brander.
The other brander government made in these elections was choice of the campaigning team. All the members of this team were hated by the population for their open roles in draining the national economy. Kazibwe the chairman reminds every Ugandan about the valley dam money she mis-used. The name Mbabazi to many Ugandans connotes corruption itself. Bukenya, the campaign team booster, had just been implicated of misuse of CHOGM funds and the train of ministers who followed in these campaigns sincerely had no moral authority to appear in public and turn anyone to their side.
Being born out of a corrupt system, these people proved are completely out of new elective politics ideas. Their strategies were based on money and expired ideas that NRM is popular or people can be bought, deceived or intimidated. People saw those people as money machines sent into the area by god so they went to them with financial motives. When they got into Mukono, they contacted Mukono’s rich gurus for campaign team. This had two mistakes, the people on the team always represented money which they always falsely wanted to prove. Two, down the grassroots all movement mobilisers and supporters struggled for a link to this group to rip quick money from them, actually all meetings they organized had to be highly moniterised to an extent that movement members being selfish couldn’t bring other party members on board yet these were the new voters a person who had lost an election wanted. Movement members on a village bent much of their efforts struggling to attend and find out where the next meeting will be so as to get money, they actually saw this period as a rip back period.
The team made very poor strategies. The NRM knew Bakaluba was a very unpopular candidate so they wanted to erase Bakaluba the person and front the NRM and Museveni as campaign tools. Government tried very much to sway these elections on party lines so that the week candidate is forgotten but this only worked for a few NRM diehards but didn’t attract any new voter. The opponent wisely stuck on area needs and questioned Bakaluba’s personal achievements. Failing to sway campaigns your way means your to be swayed into your opponents courtyard. This strategy also failed because the government has few tangible projects to convince an understanding community about. The NAADS program is a failed project that didn’t reach to any person, UPE program is an academic jock, and the Bonnabaggaggawale program has failed to take off beyond the promise stage. Hence telling people about these programs was like reminding them not to vote a government that has done nothing.
The candidate himself was sidelined, on many occasions government officials had rallies and plenary sessions without him knowing what was taking place. This disorganized his own work plans, hence he didn’t address any serious rally and didn’t promise to deriver anything new to the people. NRM failed in attracting any new voter into its camp but stuck on her selfish diehards whose numbers are very low.
When president Museveni came, he proved local NRM leaders a pack of cheats. For example, while in Katoogo, he publicly questioned NAADS official where the 25millions he sent to the sub-county for NAADS activities was. Nambooze had told these people of the same amount and that she wanted to follow it up. With guilt, he asked people to forgive NRM and vote her candidate. Campaigns in Mukono would have been carried out with reconciliatory messages. But all local leaders and ministers never realized this but rather insisted on deceit and insisting on the presence of non-existing government programs plus intimidations.
The boardroom campaigns/ ignoring nonparty members
NRM strategist didn’t take note of the fact that their candidate was cheated into victory so had lost the previous elections, this means they needed to woo new voters. In the board room campaigns, they deployed ministers and district officials to meet different groups of people and scare or remind them to vote for NRM then at the end of the day give them some money. In this they met women, boda boda’s, and youth. In such meetings non NRM/opposition members were ignored and not called in any meetings because they felt they couldn’t “eat” their money. Whoever came out of such meetings and told others, it only created more hatred for the NRM candidate as they felt ignored and the fact that this being an urban area vote buying couldn’t work.
During campaign trails to meet the Vice president and president NRM supporters had to be ferried from place to place so as not to shame party leaders in the area. It should be noted that in all campaigns, it is only in Mukono that the president spent two days making various stop overs but they didn’t parade any person who had crossed from the opponents camp into the NRM camp.
Voter buying, deceit and empty promises.
The NRM decided to make empty promises like promising youth of quick loans. Youth were told to form quick groups and were given forms to fill for quick loans. This deceit strategy was meant to keep them in suspense until voting day. Realizing this, Nambooze made a “press release” which was distributed to all prone voters on the last day telling them that “don’t vote empty promises for example you were promised quick loans which didn’t come up to today which is the last day” this letter worked wonders for Nambooze as truly by the last day no money had been given. NRM strategists made a mistake that NRM can never come out of come 2010 because the trend in Mukono proved that NM is a government of deceit to its own members and actually by last day many crossed to DP. The NRM dished out a lot of money through village chairmen or mobilisers, but as already mentioned above given the nature of this constituency this itself was suicidal. Come 2010, don’t be surprised to hear NRM mobilisers asking for salary or direct allowances to mobilize for the party.
Kakooz Mutale and the gang
Kakooza Mutale is a political mess and a de-campaigning tool whenever he goes. NRM made a mistake of deploying him in Goma from where he moved to town council which are predominantly DP strong holds. These areas are host to the educated working class people who are not prone to intimidations. When he got there he caned arrested and tried everything stupid to force people into supporting NRM. Kakooza Mutales actions chased a few more Bakaluba supporters into Nambooze’s camp without attracting a single individual to Bakaluba. Nambooze acted smart on this by refusing not to counter NRM directly verbally or physically. She knew to achieve anything NRM could do anything and for fear of bringing violence she warned her supporters never to confront or always to keep quite whenever confronted by the paramilitary gangs. This worked very much in her favor and NRM always appeared the aggressor.
Nambooze’s major strategy was to act as the aggressed and making NRM the aggressors. This worked out so well that even whenever any evil act was pointed to her supporters, society quickly turned it against NRM before she even interjected. She wisely responded to topical issues that made her opponents camp regret them while her being believed by voters. For example, when a car and a hire salon was burnt and all news papers accused he supporters, (remember there was a press black out on her) she went into her rallies reminding and linking different fires in the country to different political events in the country and letting people decide for themselves. This fire thing back-fired so much to the NRM that they suspended talk about it. She hired KEKA political consultants whose services determined a lot of her counter strategy.
Hand tying NRM with its machinery.
Perverting vote rigging.
The NRM strategy exposed too much of information into Namboozes camp. The fact is, by the time of these elections many NRM supporters had crossed to DP or Nambooze’s camp. These same people were always called into NRM money meetings so they gave out a lot of information. NRM used its national spy network to get information from the DP camp hence inter-camp spying determined a lot of strategizing.
Given that setting the final day came, the issue that rode higher on everyone’s lips was vote rigging the very reason why these elections were being repeated. As Election Day approached it appeared that Nambooze’s success was to be determined by how well she guarded the ballots on voting day.
Two days to elections President Museveni came into the area, government informants told him Nambooze was planning to bring over 2000 youth from Kampala on electionday purposely to rig the elections. Nambooze knew that last time her agents had been bought on the voting day and declaration forms had been changed. This time she planned to bring over Nkobazambogo youth to act as her poll agents as they are dedicated to change and can’t easily be compromised. This was so classified that government failed to get this information.
When Nambooze’s camp realized that these youths are a scare into the NRM camp they decided to inter-play this to their advantage. They sprayed rumors that these boys are to be used in vote rigging. That the plan will be that some boys will be used to cause havoc at polling station as others stuff ballots into the boxes or some will be given money to bribe polling officials at the site to change results. They further threatened that some of these boxes will be hijacked and results on the tally sheets be changed on the way either to the sub-county or district tallying centers. They made it known that they had already talked to all polling assistants on all polling stations and had consented to this move. On top of this, they “confessed” that DP without rigging can only win in Goma sub-county and that last time if they hadn’t done this they will not have got any vote.
This delude was so strongly believed that the RDC called a meeting in his office and decided to strongly deploy army and policemen in all polling centers to avert it. All NRM strategists dumped all vote canvassing plans and decided to go for night NRM house to house campaign telling members to go and vote the next day knowing that this will be enough.
Bakaluba himself was taken up by this ploy hence when addressing press a day before elections he said he was to win in all sub-counties apart from Goma and that DP camp was planning to rig the vote. Actually, given this information, NRM knew they will obviously win since they have police and army they can deploy in all polling centers to avoid any such fracas. On the night of 24th, police and army were heavily deployed with strict instruction to guard polling stations against any confusion, rigging practices or anyone who gets near the polling site limits. The RDC on the same night went to Dunamis radio in Mukono and made the deployment known to anyone in this area plus threatening to arrest any “intruders” who intended to cause chaos at polling sites.
The district electoral office also fell into this trick, fearing foul play; he shifted/rotated polling officers early morning from the original assigned polling stations to new ones.
All NRM mobilisers in an all day meeting held at Bakalubas home in Nasuuti were briefed about this. They were assured that they will have victory if they mobilize all members to vote. They were told that DP rigs votes by playing innocent and shouting aloud that they are being cheated so they were told to be on the watch out for these “imported” youth planning to cheat. All NRM attention was shifted to fairly guarding the ballots.
On the polling day, all government officials, security officials and NRM cadres patrolled all polling stations looking for any chance of vote rigging by DP “imported” youths. Tension and suspicion rose higher in NRM camp when they saw these youth active at polling stations as Namboozes polling agents so too much attention was put to their activities as DP supporters mobilized people to vote for their candidate even on the very voting day.
When voting was done without incidents, all security bodies turned attention to last minute confusion and watched the signing of declaration forms such that no foul play is made. This happened without incident and the last incident that had to be watched was delivering those ballot boxes to the sub-county and the final tallying centre at the district. Fearing mid-road hijack, police vehicles that ferried those boxes were heavily armed, followed by other security officers on motor-cycles, Namboozes agents plus supporters who volunteered to follow the boxes. This successful delivery of results happened in three sub-counties.
By the time NRM thought of result changing it was too late as results were well guarded and communicated to Namboozes tallying canter. This is the reason why it was only Kalagala polling station results that was crushingly changed to 500 voters in favor of Bakaluba and only 50 for Nambooze which obviously was un-practical. This change was too late to change the total out comes, as most results had come in and DP was already celebrating.
Realizing that they have been hand tied and beaten at their own game, the RDC held a meeting with NRM gurus in his office to forge a last minute reason to suspend the declarations. The electoral commissioner intentionally delayed announcing Nambooze the winner as he waited for instructions or outcomes from this meeting. They let him announce after de-deploying all soldiers and policemen.
The fact was, Nambooze’s camp feared vote rigging most yet it only had private volunteers to counter it. NRM feared this very much because they knew they have always used it to win elections. As it was on the Kalagala polling station results, suspicion was so high that NRM had this in plan all along. This dupe diverted all Bakaluba’s strategies of; changing results on the way, trying to woo voters outside the NRM party and also it prevented any foul play in which NRM is a master. Nambooze’s win was beating NRM hands down at her game and only ended up deploying army and police to guard Namboozes votes!
Congratulations Ms. Brain Power.
Kaweesa J kaweesa