The nation was on Sunday, September 6, treated to utter shock when reports emerged that babies participated in NRM Primary elections that were conducted on Friday.
According to witness accounts, all babies that were carried by their mothers on the back were also counted especially in Arua City, Ayivu West Division, Ombaci Parish, the home Parish of John Lematia who was later declared the winner of the controversial elections.
The election that was marred by numerous irregularities has, however, angered members of Benard Atiku, the incumbent MP’s camp.
As a result, Atiku who emerged second in the polls has rejected the results and is now considering to petition the NRM Electoral Commission (EC) to investigate the alleged massive theft of votes in favour of Lematia particularly in Ombaci Parish.
Preliminary results released indicate that Lematia polled 10, 129 votes followed by Atiku with 4, 485, Denis Ayikobua got 4, 151 while Fred Bada polled 2, 677 and Denis Anguyo Alfred got 310 votes.
Speaking to journalists at Ayivu Division headquarters in Onduparaka on Sunday, MP Atiku’s coordinator of Ombaci Parish, Noah Embati alleged that in almost all villages in Ombaci, babies that happened to be on their mothers’ back were counted in favour of Lematia.
“We who were Atiku’s supporters were threatened by Lematia’s supporters not to say anything about their action. Lematia was also personally driving from village to village encouraging children to join the line and all were counted in his favour including babies,” Embati alleged.
Embati added that at a certain moment, Lematia physically confronted him, a case which he has already reported to police.
Peter Agonda, another agent at Amakuva village in Ombaci Parish also alleged that in his village babies were equally counted to add up Lematia’s votes.
“While counting, they started with the mother and later the baby on her back and since we were few, they ordered us not to say anything. People whom they have counted were openly seen going back to be counted again and that is why in a village, you find Lematia gets more than 600 votes yet in actual sense the number of voters in that particular village doesn’t reach to the said figure,” Agonda said.
Meanwhile Nicholus Adaki claimed that prior to the voting day, people were moving from home to home in Ombaci Parish threatening to harm anybody who will vote for Atiku.
“In my polling station, I witnessed a baby who was in the hands of her mother being counted. The order was that one line was strictly for Lematia and no line for any other candidate. When all this happened, I refused to sign the declaration form and moved away,” Saulo Jolo, the agent of MP Atiku in Aravile village said.
Following the alleged irregularities, in Ombaci Parish alone, Lematia got 4, 732, Atiku polled 101, Bada got 64 votes, Ayiko 68 votes while Anguyo got 08 votes.
But during the press briefing, Atiku said considering the circumstances under which the elections were conducted, they have taken some steps about the numerous cases of malpractice which were reported before, during and after the polling day.
Among the steps taken, Atiku said they will record statements at police about the criminal threats issued to his supporters and also petition the NRM EC to investigate the allegations and take action.
“If the petition doesn’t give us the expected results, I will consider running as an Independent candidate but that will be informed by the assurance of fairness from the petition that we are going to present before the NRM EC,” Atiku said.
However, when contacted on phone, Lematia denied the allegations, saying they are merely baseless.
“For sure, I didn’t involve myself in such dubious acts. Secondly, babies or children never voted in my Parish as being alleged. All presiding officers are mature and were trained, so how could they count babies and children yet the guideline was clear?” Lematia asked.
Lematia gave go-ahead to Atiku to petition the results if he has enough evidence to nullify the contested elections.