Uganda's Arua by-election: What you need to know

Wednesday August 15 2018

This man was arrested for allegedly stuffing ballots at Enyau Kebiri Cell in Arua on August 15, 2018. PHOTO | ALEX ESAGALA | DAILY MONITOR


Today, about 40,000 voters in Uganda’s Arua Municipality are casting ballot to pick a replacement for their late MP Ibrahim Abiriga.

Mr Abiriga, a National Resistance Movement MP, was brutally assassinated on June 8 near his home in Kawanda, Wakiso District

This is what you need to know about the high-stakes poll marred by gunfire, bloodletting and a death:

  • Candidates

— Voters are spoilt for choice because the number of candidates in the by-election has doubled to 12.

— But in reality, the contest is between three, perhaps four, front runners: former Igara Growers Tea Factory Ltd general-manager Robert Ejiku, fiery ex-Terego legislator Kassiano Wadri and Nusura Tiperu, a long-time lawmaker holding the flag of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).


— It is an election to lose for Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party candidate Bruce Musema, an early favourite going into the nominations and before Mr Wadri threw his hat in the political ring.

— This follows the fallout that rocked FDC after Mr Musema was given a direct ticket.

— The 12 contestants are educated and many are experienced in politics or development work.

  • What will inform voter choices?

— A legislator’s principal constitutional duties include making laws, representing constituents’ views and allocating and providing oversight in use of national resources.

— There is a residual task of lobbying for development from the government as well as development partners

— But voters in Arua Municipality, like their counterparts in most Ugandan constituencies, rarely elect leaders exclusively on the basis of their ability to deliver in prescribed roles.

— Religion and tribe are two huge influencers. A lingering divisionism over the failed split of the constituency in readiness for the stalled city status has introduced suspicions and even hostility in electoral alliances.

— And there is the cursory split between the urbane, many residing in Arua Hill Division and generally better off, and comparably the less gifted River Oli Division residents who outnumber and turn out generously to cast the ballot.

— This is why the election, at least among the top three candidates, is still close to call.

  • Violence, again

— Like the campaigns, the by-election day has been marred by pockets of violence.

— At Enyau Kebiri Cell, supporters of Mr Wadri, an independent candidate, have smashed the windscreens of the car belonging to Arua Municipality Mayor Issa Kato.

— The angry voters accused Mr Kato of carrying pre-ticked ballot papers.

— A scuffle ensued in which one person was injured. The windscreens of the car used by Kato and his group was also vandalised, forcing him to abandon the venue.

  • Arua town on lockdown

— Arua town has seen heavy deployment of both police and army, patrolling all the corners of the town.

— The army men have unleashed the newly manufactured ‘Nyoka’ vehicles to help in the patrols.

— The vehicles fitted with automatic guns have been strolling leisurely, with the fingers of the gun operators on triggers, ready to shoot.

  • MPs detained

— Four MPs have been locked up over the violence that rocked Arua on Monday, the last day of campaigns.

— They are Robert Kyagulanyi, aka, Bobi Wine (Kyadondo East), Francis Zaake (Mityana Municipality), Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo Municipality) and Paul Mwiru (Jinja Municipality).

— Police have said the four lawmakers had guns.

— Former Makindye East representative Mike Mabikke and Independent candidate Kassiano Wadri, for whom they went to drum up support, were arrested alongside two journalists and more than two dozen other suspects.

— The arrests followed confrontations between security forces and Opposition supporters late on Monday in which Bobi Wine’s driver, Yasin Kawuma, was shot dead and six others sustained gunshot wounds.

— Detectives have preferred charges of obstruction and malicious damage [to property] against the lawmakers and their co-accused.