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The Media shouldn’t Parrot Opposition false Claims!

By Ofwono Opondo

March, 25, 16
As Ugandans await the Supreme Court ruling on John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, the ‘Go Forward’ presidential candidate’s election petition seeking to nullify President Yoweri Museveni’s election victory, I take issue with broadly with the Uganda media, and in particular, The Daily Monitor’s coverage of election campaigns and results so far.
It surprises that over a month after the public declaration, official release and gazzettment of the election results by Electoral Commission (EC) the mainstream media of radios, television stations and newspapers continue to parrot the false and very absurd claims by Dr Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) that he was ‘robbed’ of victory at the last minute by the NRM in connivance with the EC and other state organs. This media conspiracy of silence on FDC’s loss of 17 of its 35 MPs in the 9th parliament, and the fact that FDC hasn’t made any gains at all, begs a jab.
Museveni and NRM win shouldn’t surprise because it is consistent with all the opinion polls that were conducted over two years prior to the elections, and actual fielding of candidates by political parties. Museveni’s 60.62% is consistent with NRM’s 72.1%, 75%, and 69% for MPs, district, and sub-county local government seats respectively.
The results published by the EC and available including on the internet at almost no cost show that Besigye won in only fourteen out of 112 districts with 3.508,687 million votes representing 35.61%, while Museveni won in 98 districts and in all regions with 5.971,872 million votes representing 60.62% of the total votes cast respectively.
In this election Besigye gained 1.5 million votes compared to two million votes he got in 2011 while Museveni’s gain was a paltry 500,000. To the NRM strategists, this is the most shocking, indeed worrying trend, and having located the cause as being our messaging, strategy, campaign style, internal laxity, occasioned fraud and widespread bickering we shall not blame anybody else except ourselves. Actually, to be frank, we were almost swept away by our collective failure to robustly respond to the opposition demagoguery on issues of youth unemployment, despair among the urban population, poor and yet expensive public service delivery and bad public relations especially to distribution of soft campaign cash that often got stolen along the way among other issues. This, to the Besigye camp should give hope that with better strategic organisation not only falsehoods, they can in the future topple NRM through the ballot instead of being bad losers.
NRM fielded 414 candidates for the 415 elective parliamentary seats while FDC only had 192, DP 68, UPC 38, and Independents 717, mostly NRM leaning. The final results show NRM has 294 MPs-elect, FDC 36, DP 14, UPC 06 and Independents 64. In fact 44 of the Independents contested in the NRM primaries.
Of the 112 District Local Government Chairpersons, NRM has 84 (75%), FDC 05 (4.46%), DP 02 (1.79%), UPC 04 (3.5%) and Independents 17 (15.18%). So, in this scenario, Besigye and his small band should stop crying foul, and perhaps organize better in future! Out of the already elected 1,392 Sub-County (LCIII)  Local Government Chairpersons NRM scooped 972 (69.78%), FDC 105 (7.5%), DP 32 (2.30%), UPC 35 and independents 192 (13.5%), and smaller parties like Uganda Federal Alliance, and SDP and postponed elections account for the remaining. The claims of rigging especially at the last minute through alleged intimidation of candidates’ agents, ballot stuffing, falsification or alteration of results on tally and declaration sheets and at announcements are perturbing and incredibly unbelievable. These could pass as truth if the peddlers could at least adduce some verifiable evidence from eyewitnesses and documents in their possession that differ from those of the EC which ought to be available from the multiple sources including the media that observed these elections.
But, it appears the candidates, observers and media did a shoddy job and are now embarrassed they cannot provide any credible documentary evidence of fraud hence the generalized allegations of cheating and unfairness. The local media in particular, appear to have been overtaken by the early rumblings in the campaigns perhaps by the way Mbabazi was hounded out of NRM Secretary Generalship and the subsequent obstruction of his initial consultations outside NRM party rules by the police. Unfortunately, Mbabazi’s would be most loyal and vocal supporter, his wife Jacqueline was subdued by God’s cruel hand and has been reported indisposed throughout the campaigns unable to butt for him, and, we wish her steady recovery.
The media silence has left Besigye to make the bogus claims thereby inadvertently lending false credence that indeed he was cheated and fanned keep public anxiety. Surely, the Uganda media can do much better that has been!