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Kiggundu: People Hate The Truth

Set for retirement. A civil engineer by training, Dr Badru Kiggundu has for 13 years been at helm of the Electoral Commission, a period during which he presided over three general elections – with two of them ending up at the Supreme Court because they were controversial.

To start with, do you know you are one of the most hated men in this country right now?    

First of all, I must thank Allah for creating a human being like Kiggundu who can stand the storm: A man who has unlimited understanding and who doesn’t go off his head easily. We all see things and interpret them differently. We perceive events, and still interpret them differently.[1]

I don’t hate anybody; If there is anybody who hates me, it is their own choosing. Some people expected that I could make them winners, I cannot make anybody a winner, they have to do their work of convincing the voters who in turn do as they perceive.[2]

If the results turn out this way, there is no way I can or could have made them turn out that way. It is not only unethical, unprofessional but I would also be an uncultured scientist. The truth is bitter, people hate it, and that is what I am hated for.[3]
I am not a lawyer, but an engineer who has mastered the principles of organising elections. I have been very truthful to myself for all this time, and that is how I will be until my last hour. says Kiggundu

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Talking of organising elections, the Commonwealth and European Union observers from their findings have summed EC as not only incompetent but lacking independence to organise any credible polls. What do you make of the assessment?

Actually, it is us [EC] who accredited them. We should have said no, but we went ahead anyway.
We did not accredit them so that they make creamy observations; they had to make their own findings subject to their own interpretation. But like I said before, we are human beings whether Black, White or yellow. We will look at events and interpret them differently.[4]

Let’s assume you don’t agree with the observers’ conclusion, but even the Supreme Court, much as they declined to overturn the polls you organised, obviously took exception with EC’s handling of the polls First of all, I do acknowledge the work done by the Supreme Court judges. I hold them in high esteem because they have never failed this country in judging us on issues within the provisions of the Constitution. Elections can never be perfect; I don’t know of any country that has what you call a perfect election. If you know one, let me know. I am a student and I will remain one.[5]

Where concerns were raised, the Commission still strives to improve in the coming years because we are building a democratic process, which is not a canned product that you pick from the shelf and serve it perfectly.

There are bound to be shortfalls here and there, not necessarily designed by the Commission. But also remember the Commission is run by human beings, and we have always taken stock of these issues which we strive to rectify at every opportunity.[6] Kiggundu

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But there are some shortfalls whose explanation has not been convincing by far, and this has been the fodder for the Opposition and observers. The scenes that we saw in Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono –largely Opposition strongholds – an arm’s reach from your office but voting material arrived late.

No, Mukono was not part of them. But even then, what is their [Opposition/observers] main claim? I don’t find it convincing.[7]

The claim is that this was an attempt to deliberately disenfranchise voters in these areas. That is an unsubstantiated claim. We had more voters this time around than we had in 2011 in spite of the late delivery of logistics in only parts of those districts, not wholly. Voters were persistent and waited unreservedly for the opportunity to cast votes; there wasn’t a single voter in Kampala or Wakiso who can claim, despite of what happened, that they were denied the opportunity to cast their votes. So that side of complaint doesn’t hold water to it.[8]

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When you say voter turnout this time round was high, certainly there was a reason. What do you think accounted for it?

The enthusiasm was high. We also did our best to improve the outlook of the elections by introducing newer technologies which attracted especially the young people. These were not necessarily enticements, but that is my take.[9]

The incumbent has also claimed that EC cost him votes by declaring many of his votes as spoilt ballots and that if it was not the case, he would have scored a higher tally. Well, I could not create any voters. I could only count what was in the ballot boxes and sum the total.

Of the three elections you presided over, which was the most difficult and why?

It is not a question of hardest. Look at it in terms of life of a human being. From one year to another the variables around change and complexities are different.[10]

Every election cycle of five years brought its dynamics, like this time round people were very enthusiastic, more learned and aggressive – things I cannot control but all carried a load.[11]

So you mean there was never a hardest?
No, like I said each had its own complexities. For example, the more people are educated, the more informed they become. With more technology people become more zealous. With more opportunities we had more challenges than we had in 2011. There is so much that goes into a political process that you never know, but all [that] feeds into the process. I’m sure 2021 will have its own challenges as well. Kiggundu

Did it ever occur to you, or did you ever get any fear that EC’s decision could plunge the country into disorder?
No, it doesn’t have to do with fear and I don’t have it. If you have fear you are bound to fail, you get concerned and concern is different from fear.[12]

So were you ever concerned?
Of course, I got concerned. But you get concerned and strategise that if such and such happens how shall we handle it.[13]
That, for example, if some people are unhappy about election results they will got to courts of law. It is very good for our democracy that people channel their grievances through a court system, and Ugandans should be happy about the prevailing legal framework.[14]
There are countries where [election] petitions are unheard of, and if they are there they don’t take a short time for redress.

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Justice Kanyeihamba, one of the nine justices who heard the 2006 petition, weighed in recently on the ruling. He said the current bench did a poor job, saying they limited their scope of work yet their mandate is unrestricted on such a serious matter. Given the experience of the 2006 petition, many Ugandans did not expect otherwise. Doesn’t that make petitions just a formality?
Which Ugandans? I don’t think it is the whole population. It was just a small percentage. But even then, the other question “what was/is the alternative?” Is going to street an option? Definitely no. We must learn to address our grievances through a civilised judicial system and it’s the only way we can be regarded as a civilised nation.

Yes, you may not be 100 per cent solid on the judgement issued by this judge, but that is it. I respect the thinking of the judges and the judgement. Kiggundu

In the heat of events you lamented onetime that you regretted having approved the nomination of Dr Kizza Besigye as a presidential candidate. This seemed to give credence to the Opposition claim that EC is a mere extension of the ruling NRM party rather than a national electoral body…

I have been asked that question numerous times. At the onset before nomination, my brother Dr Besigye came through saying he is not going to abide by rules. If the laws were strong with such kind of background it was a ground for exclusion.[15] Kiggundu

Given Besigye’s experience with elections you have presided over, I’m sure you two would have a lot to discuss. Have you ever tried reaching out to him?
Well, he has never expressed interest in wanting to meet me. If he ever writes to me wanting to do so, I will call him here. He is a citizen of this country with divergent views, yes but we have never denied him because he has never requested for opportunity.[16]

The other thing that left Besigye and many other Ugandans confused was you announcing the winner before all results were in. In fact, results broadcast by one TV station on polling day at one time showed Besigye and Museveni in the lead intermittently.[17]

What is the absolute concern with that? We have a legal framework: Article 103 of the Constitution is very clear. Let them read what the law, Clause 7 provides. I have done the same in 2011, 2006 and in 2016 applying the same principles, and if I had the chance I would do the same.[18] Kiggundu

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