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EC probes govt, security officials in Rukungiri poll

RUKUNGIRI- The FDC candidate in the Rukungiri District Woman MP by-election, Ms Betty Muzanira, has petitioned the Electoral Commission (EC) to restrain the Commissioner General of Prisons, Mr Johnson Byabashaija, Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) and army officers from influencing the campaigns in favour of one candidate.

In the petition addressed to the EC chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama, Ms Muzanira accuses Mr James Mwesigye (former Kasese RDC), Mr Dan Kaguta (former Wakiso RDC now working with the External Security Organisation), Mr Emmy Katera Ngabirano (Buhweju RDC), Mr Denis Nzeirwe (Kabale Deputy RDC) and Ms Justine Muhindo (Rukungiri Deputy RDC) of involvement in partisan campaigns contrary to the law.

Also accused are army officers Brig David Kasula, Col Amos Rutaremwa and Col John Bashaija.

“It has come to our client’s notice that the Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons Service, Mr Johnson Byabashaija, who is by law a public servant thus forbidden from engaging in partisan politics, is currently in Rukungiri, campaigning for Hon Winfred Masiko Komuhangi, a candidate in the said by election,” reads the May 7 petition by Ms Muzanira’s lawyers, Rwakafuzi and Company Advocates.

Ms Masiko is the ruling NRM party candidate.
Mr Byabashaija was accused of campaigning in Nyakishenyi Sub-county.
“Additionally, this amounts to outright abuse of office by the said individual, which should interest the Inspectorate of Government. This is, therefore, to request for your immediate intervention and prevail over these officers to stop their actions,” the petition reads in part.

The petition alleges that Mr Mwesigye campaigned in Buyanja Sub-county on May 12 and on May 14, Mr Kaguta in Nyakishenyi and Mr Kateera in Bwambara Sub-county. The petition further alleges that Ms Muhindo campaigned in Nyarushanje Sub-county and Mr Nzeirwe in Bugangari Sub-county. Ms Muzanira also asked EC chairman to prevail over Brig Kasula, Col Rutaremwa and Col Bashaija to “stop their actions forth with.”

However, the petition does not state where or when the army officers campaigned for Ms Masiko.
The petition against the army officers is copied to the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen David Muhoozi.

Justice Byabakama has asked Gen Muhoozi to investigate the allegations and take action.

He has also written to the Rukungiri District returning officer to investigate the allegations.
EC spokesperson Jotham Taremwa on Saturday confirmed the returning officer had been tasked to investigate the claims with “utmost urgency.”

Mr Byabashaija denied the accusations of partisan campaigns.
“People who know me would testify. I am not involved in this election in any way. I think there are issues not related to this election that these things are following, which we may discuss later after the elections,” he added.
The petitioner, Ms Muzanira, said they want civil servants out of the election campaigns.

“People are using State resources to intimidate our voters. This is not acceptable. We have petitioned various offices. We need them out; let them not use their offices or government resources to campaign, threaten people or give out money,” she said.

What the accused say

Mr Johnson Byabashaija: “On May 12, I was chairing a meeting for Nyakishenyi High School where I am chairperson Board of Governors. We did not talk politics at all. I have not been back home since. I have seen the allegations that I am hosting meetings in my house; that I have a store for sticks and I am training people to beat up voters. I cannot do such a thing.”

Mr James Mwesigye: “I am not an RDC; I am a retired RDC. I do not hold any government office and I am free to campaign for anyone of my choice. There are so many outsiders campaigning for FDC; what about me? Let them accept that we are in a free election and we all have to campaign.”

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