The Electoral Commission (EC) chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama, has apologised for dropping the ball in the Bukimbiri County parliamentary seat in Kisoro District.
The Court of Appeal on June 6, 2022, nullified the victory of Eddie Kwizera as Bukimbiri Member of Parliament following an application filed by the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party candidate, Mr James Owebeyi.
Justices Frederick Egonda-Ntende and Eva Luswata ruled that the ballot papers used in the election were defective.
“As a Commission, we own up that mess. The ballot papers are not printed from Uganda and once they are sealed, nobody has the mandate to open them. When we realised the error, it was too late for us to rectify it,” he said.
“We only thought that the people of Bukimbiri would understand this mistake and move on with the process but eventually, the court process has led us to this stage,” Justice Byabakama added.
He was on Monday chairing the stakeholders’ meeting at Kisoro District headquarters before releasing the road map of the by-election.
“As required by law, the statutory deadline for conducting a parliamentary by-election is 60 days after notification from the Clerk to Parliament on the occurrence of the vacancy. The Commission received the notice on June 16, 2022, and therefore, the statutory deadline for holding the by-election is August 15, 2022,” he said.
“The Commission believes that the successful filling of this vacancy will depend, among other things, on your partnership, mobilisation, and sensitisation of the electorate to observe law and order and to actively but peacefully participate in the entire electoral process,” Justice Byabakama added
Stakeholders were further asked by the commission to adhere to the electoral laws and guidelines .
The EC chairperson said not more than two vehicles per candidate will be allowed at the nomination venue.
“The two vehicles should have police stickers. In this election, we have banned convoys, road blitzes, parades, and processions during campaigns,” he stressed.
Mr Kwizera said despite losing his seat after a court ruling, he is optimistic that voters will still support him to win the forthcoming by-elections.
“I will not invest any coin in campaigning for this seat. The people who voted for me are still the same that will defend my victory. I am not afraid of anything at all,” he said.
Mr Asigari Turyagyenda, a former independent candidate in the race, appealed to the Commission to ensure that the process is free and fair.
“The previous election saw people voting at night in some areas and when we raised our complaints, none responded. We thank God that the ground has been levelled again, let us hope for the best,” he said.
Mr Shaffiq Ssekandi, the resident district commissioner, noted that due to the fragile security situation in the area because of the ongoing conflict in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), there will be an increased deployment of security personnel in the constituency.
In last year’s election, Mr Owebeyi, who is now a student at the Law Development Centre in Kampala, got 104 votes while Mr Kwizera (NRM) got 11,821 votes . Other two candidates; Asigari Turyagyenda got 11,330 votes and Martin Muhereza 167 votes.