It is now six months since Cavendish University students went on polls to elect a new guild president. However, up to now, the university does not have a substantive guild president.
The election was held on May 7. The race attracted five candidates who included; Mr. Joshua Echam a second-year student of Law, Ms. Sarah Natukunda a second-year student of Information Technology, and Mr. Abdul Muhammad a third-year student of Business Administration.
Others were Mr. Muhammad Jaffa a second-year student of Public Health and Ms. Patience King Nakayiwa a third-year student of Business Administration. The highest tension was, however, between Ms. Nakayiwa a Ugandan and Mr. Jaffa a Nigerian.
Mr. Edmond Sendeyo, the vice chairperson of the electoral commission said that the composition of the electoral body was done in a transparent manner by involving all the necessary stakeholders, mainly the students.
“There was a successful formation of the electoral commission by all the class coordinators and then the electoral commission nominated the candidates,” Mr. Sendayo said. On voting day, the electoral commission made sure that all the voting materials were set and security was beefed-up by the Uganda police.
However, trouble ensued after three bundles of ballot papers were found in Ms. Nakayiwa’s ballot box, prompting fears of vote rigging. Mr. Sendayo said: “Three bundles of ballot papers were found in Ms. Nakayiwa’s ballot box. In the bundles had 48 ballot papers, of which 45 were valid, and three were invalid.”
This raised concern among agents of other four candidates most especially the agents of Mr. Jaffa who demanded for explanations on how the bundles of the ballot papers were found in Ms. Nakayiwa’s ballot box. It was, however, disturbing that the ballot papers had serials numbers that were in order. This almost resulted into fights between the agents of the two main candidates.
Voting was mainly based on the nationality of the candidates as many international students sided with Mr. Jaffa and the Ugandan students voted their very own, Ms. Nakayiwa. Mr. Jaffa showed early lead as the votes were counted but this did not lead him to victory. Each of the main candidates garnered 389 votes.
This was after the Dean of students Ms. Hope Byachi advised that even invalid votes be counted since students were not sensitized on how to vote. This suggestion was welcomed by the agents of the main candidates. However, this decision was not welcomed by Mr. Paul Maduok, the electoral commission speaker who walked out of the tally room in protest, citing electoral fraud.
Ms. Nakayiwa was declared of the guild elections but her victory was reversed after Mr. Jaffa filled a petition challenging Ms. Nakayiwa’s win, leaving the entire students’ body without a leader.
However, Mr. Israel Lambe, the former Guild president did not like the way elections were handled. “I want to express my disappointment for all that transpired during the recent elections. In my regime, if elections were conducted in the same way, I think I would have not served as the Guild president,” said Mr. Lambe.
He, however, thanked the Cavendish university administration for drafting the new constitution. He said: “I thank the current university administration most especially the Vice Chancellor Prof. John Francis Mugisha for drafting a constitution that will guide other elections to come. Mr. Lambe also commended the students for being calm during and after the elections. “I also thank the students for keeping calm during the process of the elections up to this semester with no cases of strikes at the university,” Mr. Lambe said.
Ms. Hope Byachi, the Dean of students, however, blamed the electoral commission chairman for all the mess that occurred during the elections. “I blame the chairperson electoral commission, Mr. Bosco Tusiime for taking one side when confusion started among agents in the voting room,” adding that: “Before bringing order into the tally room, some members including other agents had left the room with false information to the voters who stood outside Kingsgate by 10pm. But thanks to Uganda police who came in to disperse the students.”
The current constitution allows the Dean of students to takeover students’ leadership in case the office of the Guild is not functioning. “In case the office of the Guild is not functional, the Dean of students with her committee comprising of the legal advisors takes over the students affairs,” Ms. Byachi said. Now that there is no Guild President, the Dean of Students has taken over the leadership of the students.
The entire election left the students’ body divided with many students wondering how such election was conducted. Mr. Joseph Nashion a student of Public Health blamed the university administration for not recognizing Ms. Nakayiwa as the Guild President-elect. “The university administration has then become weak if they cannot allow Ms. Patience King Nakayiwa to take oath because she was already declared the Guild President,” Mr. Nashion said.
The former Guild Speaker Mr. Alex Futupai blamed the electoral commission for failure to sensitize the students on electoral process. “There was no public lecture to students on how to cast their votes by the electoral commission and this is one of mistakes made the electoral commission.” Mr. Futupai said.
However, Ms. Penninah Namara, a Journalism student advised that next time, there must be strict supervision when conducting elections: “The next time elections will be carried out, strict supervision must be emphasized in order to avoid ballot staffing,” Ms. Namara advised.
The newly drafted guild constitution states that in case there is no active Guild Students’ Union, a caretaker comes in under the leadership of the Dean of students. However, what is not known is how long the caretaker will spend in office. Now the semester is coming to an end and in case of another election when shall it be? Also, if the students are to go for another election, will the same candidates be nominated for the guild race or students will have new faces in the ballot papers?