BUKEDEA WOMEN CRY IN BYABAKAMA’S OFFICE AS EC DECLARES ANITA AMONG UNOPPOSED FOR WOMAN MP POSITION
By Mulengera Reporters
Last Friday afternoon, the EC chairman Simon Byabakama convened a meeting with some of the women Bukedea District Returning Officer Raymond Kisarare had nominated for the position of Woman MP. Byabakama had separately been petitioned by a one Isaac Epiro (whose complaint was that some of the women had erroneously been nominated) and other equally aggrieved residents. Epiro’s evidence was that some of Bukedea voters who the RO had recorded as proposing and seconding the women’s nominations were now up in arms saying their signatures had been forged making the consequent nominations a nullity.
Some of women affected by this included Jessica Asio and Ketty Akello who the RO Kisarare had previously nominated for the race as NRM-leaning independents. So, Byabakama used the Friday meeting to get the nominators/proposers make their case in a meeting during which the accused ladies, accompanied by their lawyers, too were given chance to defend themselves. They told Byabakama there is no way they could have forged their proposers’ identities because they even had pictures of the same men willingly turning up to escort them to the Bukedea nomination center.
Byabakama took the word of proposers and declared the ladies’ nominations invalid. There was a 3rd lady whose nomination was equally invalidated on similar grounds prompting one of the lawyers to insist that the EC chairman becomes interested in claims that the changing proposers had been compromised by political opponents. Subsequently, the EC boss (whose impartiality some of the Bukedea women and their supporters are now disputing) decreed that the EC must denominate the three ladies.
In reference to Asio’s fate, Byabakama says he is empowered to reverse the nomination of anyone and overturn the Returning Officer’s decision under Article 61(1)(f) of the Constitution, Section 11(1) (a) of the Parliamentary Elections Act and Section 15 of the Electoral Commission Act. He advises Jessica Asio to blame Mr. Charles Emongot, her original proposer/nominator, and no one else.
Saying they had invested a lot of effort in trying to replace Hon Anita Among as next Bukedea woman MP, the women wailed inside the meeting but their endless tears didn’t move the EC boss. Not even by an inch. One of the women assured supporters after the meeting they want President Museveni to intervene and have their candidature restored or else they will demobilize the NRM support in Bukedea in favor of either POA or Henry Tumukunde. Calling that cheap politics and crude blackmail, the EC bosses have remained unmoved.
The other would-be candidate for woman MP (whose supporters are now very heart broken) is Hellen Akol Odeke of the FDC party whose nomination was frustrated by Soroti High Court’s Wilson Masalu Musene who issued an injunction prohibiting her nomination by the EC on grounds that she had discrepancies in her names. A one Umar Okodel petitioned the Soroti High Court overlooking the deed poll the same woman had deposed in a bid to authenticate her names for purposes of the EC nomination. The 50-year-old FDC business lady has since teamed up with her party bosses at Najjanankumbi to ponder challenging the EC’s decision not to have her nominated: in Court.
According to the EC, originally, the following women had been nominated for the Bukedea Woman MP seat: Naume Ekwenare, Dinah Evelyn Akongot, Jessica Asio, Mary Gorette Kitaka, Ketty Akello, Akol Sophie and Annet Anita Among of NRM. The rest were independents but as of now, only Among remains in the race. This consequently makes her unopposed, something her supporters say will permit her adequate time to campaign for and popularize Gen Museveni in the entire Teso sub region. Byabakama says Hellen Akol Odeke (the would-be FDC candidate who has since instructed J Byamukama & Co Advocates to fight the EC in Court) couldn’t have her nomination accepted because the Soroti High Court judge had issued an order directing the EC not to nominate her because of discrepancies in her names as challenged by the public-spirited voter.
Merab Amongin, the other would-be contender for the Bukedea woman MP Seat was overcome much earlier on when the courts of law were used to render her ineligible. She was put on a very curious criminal trial under the claim that she was running a pharmacy/drug shop called Samantha in Bukedea town without proper authorization by NDA. She curiously was put on trial which Byabakama says naturally made her ineligible to stand for the MP Seat especially after Bukedea Grade I Magistrate convicted and sentenced her to be in prison for 2 years and nine months without the option of paying a fine.
The EC boss says this naturally made her ineligible especially that she was sentenced to jail term without the option of paying a fine. Justice Byabakama says the otherwise very popular Merab Amongin couldn’t be nominated because mere appealing against both sentence and conviction didn’t make her innocent. And his authority for saying that, he says, is in what the law says in the Constitution (doesn’t specify the Article) and what the Supreme Court said in the case of Joshua Magombe vs. Uganda & that ofJohn Muhanguzi Kashaka (the ex-PS MoLG).
The Merab appeal in the Soroti High Court equally didn’t return with good results for Merab who remains indicted in what would ordinarily pass as a negligible offence (operating a drug shop without a license). On the nomination day, Merab stormed the EC Bukedea offices only to be told she couldn’t be nominated because of the same criminal conviction by the Bukedea Grade I Magistrate whose conviction and sentence was subsequently entrenched by the Soroti High Court whose Justice Wilson Masalu Musene sentenced her to 21 months in prison and a fine of Shs30m.
The same court ordered the arrest of Merab’s husband Griffins Ojilong and Emmy Patrick Keddi who had stood surety for her simply because they had previously failed to produce her in Court because she was in hospital battling a complicated heart condition which she says resulted from the economic and political stress the Bukedea woman MP politics has subjected her to. Ketty Akello, who former woman MP Rose Akol had groomed as a future Anita Among rival for the woman MP seat, has equally been rendered ineligible due to alleged discrepancies in her names. Akello used to be a supporter of the incumbent Anita Among but decided to stand against her when the juicy government job she anticipated for years didn’t come through.
Besides politically ganging up and vowing to mobilize their supporters to elect Gen Henry Tumukunde or POA while shunning Gen Museveni for being indifferent about political injustices in Bukedea, the aggrieved women (whose candidature eevocation by the EC implies Among bouncing back unopposed) have vowed to challenge the EC and their other tomentors in the Court of higher juridisiction and they are prepared to go up to Supreme Court until justice is done.
Merab has gone as far as petotioning the Principal Judge Dr. Flavian Zeija accusing Justice Masalu Musene of being biased against her. In justifying his decision not to do anything after the Merab complaint had been lodged in his chambers on 22nd September 2020, Zeija says that the Recusal of Judicial Officers Practice Directions of 2019 require that such an aggrieved party applies to the same court demanding that the particular judge recuses him or herself from hearing the case.
Dr. Zeija faults Merab for rushing to his office for some administrative intervention instead of taking advantage of the clear remedy available under the above mentioned Practice Directions of 2019. He asserts that the most prudent thing Merab ought to have done was to apply to Soroti High Court asking Justice Masalu Musene to recuse himself from the trial on grounds she wasn’t comfortable having him preside over the same. Having been let down by both the Soroti High Court and EC, the very disgruntled Merab now says she will be appealing to the higher Courts.
The former Bukedea district accountant also says powerful political actors have been mobilized and manipulated to gang up against her. She says she has been witch-hunted for too long as if she isn’t an influential NRM cadre with a big following in Bukedea district. That the Bukedea CAO was manipulated to expel from her job after serving for more than a year on probation yet she was supposed to be comfirmed after probation for more than 6 months.
“I was put in prison while pregnant and I have continued to be maliciously prosecuted even when the actual owner of the drug shop I’m accused of operating illegally came to court and testified,” she says naming the fellow Bukedea NRM politicians she says she will never forget. She predicts that the way the EC and the judicial system has mistreated her, there is no way her angry supporters are going to vote for Gen Museveni or any other NRM candidate.
“That means my people and those of the other women who the EC and courts have unfairly locked out are going to revenge by electing either POA or even Gen Tumukunde,” says Merab who also claims her Bukedea residence was torched down by unknown arsonists in December 2018 after she jokingly announced she would be running for Bukedea Woman MP in 2021.
Merab says that unless President Museveni makes some timely interventions, the ever growing political intrigue in the NRM Bukedea politics is going to significantly decimate his own vote against other Presidential candidates. “The independents are many and the wounds inflicted on us by the political untouchables can only deepen and thereby breeding more problems for Mzee,” she said during a media interview in Kampala. She says even as of now, she remains a deeply hunted woman just like her husband whose businesses (she says) have been crippled by the family political adversaries.
“No land lord in Bukedea town can allow us to operate business in their premises anymore even after paying rent because they are scared of the consequences of working with us. Even as we talk now, my husband and I are being hunted for jail in order to enforce Justice Masalu Musene’s latest ruling in the very strange criminal case. Clearly, someone wants to disintegrate our family and make our children destitutes because of Bukedea politics,” says Merab adding that on being discharged from the Kampala hospital where she is recovering from, she will be walking into prison to begin serving her jail sentence as her lawyers work on the appeal in higher courts.
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