Dr. Nico Schoonderwoerd. Photo: YouTube screenshot.
In a wide-ranging interview one of the coordinators and designers of the Uvote App said the presumptive winner of Uganda’s Jan. 14 presidential election, member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu started opening a lead against Gen. Yoweri Museveni immediately after the regime launched a violent campaign against the 38-year-old candidate. Dr. Nico Schoonderwoerd, who has a PhD in physics, says he started conducting a survey of potential voters from October 2020, three months before the vote—and that every time the regime killed civilians, Bobi Wine’s lead increased in the surveys, at one point reaching 65% while Museveni’s dropped under 30%. Uvote was created to capture election data to challenge concocted numbers that Uganda’s Election Commission always award to Gen. Museveni in declaring him the “victor.” In 2016 Museveni stole the election from Dr. Kizza Besigye who ran on the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) ticket.
Dr. Schoonderwoerd, who is Dutch and is married to a Ugandan, says the margin of Bobi Wine’s lead over Museveni in the survey mirrored the lead he now enjoys in the votes uploaded via the Uvote App since the Jan. 14 vote, with 72% of the vote going to Bobi Wine and 25% to Gen. Museveni. He has dismissed the “results” announced by Uganda’s Election Commission and called them “worthless” since they are not supported by data showing the breakdown from each region. He said since the EC failed to publish the breakdown of the numbers within two days as required by the constitution the results should be thrown out.
In addition to capturing images of the Declaration of Returns forms (DORs) with the vote totals from each polling station, the App lets users capture video, audio, and photos of election rigging, and human rights abuses by Ugandan soldiers and police—information that could be useful in any future International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation. Schoonderwoerd said he would prepare a comprehensive report based on the data assembled through Uvote and that he’d be willing to testify before the EU, the U.S. Congress, and a Ugandan court, to repudiate the “results” released by the EC. He said be believes in a free election, absent violence and intimidation, and with international observers, Museveni wouldn’t even get 10%. He says, “But one thing that is important is that general Museveni, he is torturing the Ugandan people with Western money.”
Below is the full interview:
Milton Allimadi: Tell us a bit about this Uvote App and your role in creating or developing this app.
Dr. Schoonderwoerd: I think many people know what happened in the 2016 elections. That actually Besigye was about to win the elections and there was large scale fraud and he was prevented from going to court because all the evidence that he had collected was raided by the government. That was five years ago. Now, most Ugandans have smart phones, internet is quite common, and it just made sense to build an App to overcome that information barrier. Obviously it was quite a challenge given the prediction that the internet would be out, normal Apps work when the internet is on. So we had to think of something to overcome that possibility. We started thinking of this about three months ago. In the Diaspora there are a lot of very talented Ugandans working in IT and in software development, so we teamed up. People are already used to Zooms and team meetings. So this was just another meeting added to the other ones. We constructed a team of Europeans, Ugandans in Europe, and Ugandans in U.S., and we started building.
Q: Very good, and very basically how does the App work?
A: Yes, we needed to keep the App simple so that people can understand quickly how it works. It basically has two functionalities. The first one is to upload a Declaration of Results form, most Ugandans know what that means. When the polling station closes this is the form that is filled out and it contains the votes for the candidates. So one would fill out all these numbers, attach a photograph that shows the declaration of votes form and hit send. If the internet is not on, then the App will just store the information until the internet becomes available. They just quietly wait. But in the meanwhile, so that the Telecenter can already announce some results, an SMS is sent to the Telecenter. So it’s quite interesting that on Monday, when the internet was turned on in some parts of Uganda we started to receive very many, many of these delayed DORs. The forms had been waiting to communicate to our backend, and then they were uploaded. Monday was a record day. Then the other functionality of the App is to report any incidents. We knew what was going to happen. We knew that there would be large scale intimidation, we knew there would be large scale bribery, there would be violence, people would not be allowed to the polling stations so we reckoned it would be very important to collect these pieces of information in our App.
Q: Interesting. So in addition to having the data from the declaration forms, you actually have some of these documented incidents of the malpractice, or the irregularities.
A: Yes, that’s right. A really good overview of what has happened in Uganda. Those people who stayed in Kampala, they might have had the impression that they were peaceful elections but they were not peaceful at all. It was very clear that in the North it was do or die for the government. They knew they had to rig the votes there but they couldn’t rig in Central parts, and in the West, they also knew they had to rig, those are their strongholds but Kyagulanyi has gained a lot of support in the West, people in the West are also very tired of Museveni and so also in the West they knew they had to do a lot of rigging, basically rig all those votes away that went to Kyagulanyi.
Q: And you have documentation of all these incidents from the North and the West as well? In the form of photographs as well as video?
A: Yes, yes, we do. Both photographic and video. Obviously many of those videos have already been shared on social media, etcetera.
But what helps in our system is that they are allocated to a certain region. So in the media you see this video, everybody sees the same thing, 99% of the people don’t even know where it is. It might just be any place in Uganda. Obviously, in court, it is important.
Q: Absolutely, very good. Because it’s time-marked so that’s how you’re able to certify that it came from a certain location?
A: Not so, it is marked because the uploader marked it.
Q: So when some of the diplomats say that on the voting day itself the election was largely peaceful, they are talking only about the Central, because they were not able to witness in the West, in the North, and other parts, is that correct?
A: That is correct.
Q: Okay, so this information sounds like something that is going to be very valuable going forward, whether it’s in a court of law, or in a court of public opinion.
A: Definitely, and what I should add to that, because the Uvote App has 100,000 users, so these are 100,000 people that want change, 100,000 people of which we have the names, their phone numbers, and potentially e-mail addresses. So it’s a useful mobilizing tool for the opposition.
Q: And no shortage of potential witnesses, it sounds like.
A: Exactly. I’ve been sending out WhatsApp messages to our users and I’ve gotten hundreds of replies.
Q: So it sounds to me like some of this information could actually be useful also to a potential ICC investigation, in terms of the criminality, and crimes.
Q: Now the last update I had from Uvote was a couple of days ago, I have not been on top of it, at that time there had been returns from the Declaration Forms, or information, or data, from 4,412 of the 34,714 polling stations, and that is 13% I believe, and according to that information Bobi Wine was leading 1,302.752 votes to general Museveni’s 450,721, or 72% to 25%. Has there been an update since that time?
A: Yes, there has been an update but it’s not a spectacular update. Kyagulanyi has added some votes there, but it’s still approximately 1.3 million votes in our system. We are expecting to be adding a couple of hundred polling stations per day because we have large stashes of DORs and we simply don’t have the manpower to process all of them.
Q: I see, very interesting. Are you able to accelerate manpower, somehow?
A: Yes, there are many people in the Diaspora that have volunteered to help us, and especially this weekend when people have a bit more time available. I think we really can jump forward and add many more Declaration of Results forms, many more polling stations.
Q: So let me ask you, what trend have you been able to perceive so far and pattern from different parts of the country, that is worth commenting about.
A: Well the interesting thing is that the trend I’ve seen, I’ve seen it already since October. Because as a non-Ugandan, I wondered how do Ugandans really feel about Bobi Wine. So I started to do a survey, I noticed that there weren’t any reliable surveys around, and I am a scientist and I decided to run my own survey based on WhatsApp, according to scientific criteria, so no bias in the sample, etcetera, and when I did that survey, I found that Kyagulanyi had 63% of the votes, and then I did the same again in November, and I noticed that he had increased, because every time the people see this extreme violence that the Kyagulanyi campaign meets, they simply have no excuse for another vote for Museveni, and I already noticed that he had climbed to 65% and support for Museveni had dropped below 30%.
And so the interesting thing is that what I’m seeing now, real voting, is exactly the same thing I’m seeing in those surveys.
The trend has continued. More people understand that the propaganda of a so-called peaceful president is just propaganda. Too many people dead on the streets, and more and more people want change, and so everybody knows that the announced results by the Electoral Committee are totally fake. There is not even a breakdown. This afternoon I went to the website of the Electoral Commission, the page shows an error, and they call themselves professional. They are not professional at all. It’s a charade and all Ugandans know that. The only thing is that the other countries, the West, they don’t understand this charade yet. They think if something is called an Electoral Commission then it must be very serious. But it isn’t. The Electoral Commission is not serious at all. I would challenge them for a discussion based on facts. I understand that this chairman of the Electoral Commission [Simon Byabakama] has a doctorate title just like me, well let’s have a scientific discussion. One thing in science is that if you make a statement then you have to provide proof, and that proof has to be falsifiable. And that is not what the Electoral Commission is doing at all. They are putting in a final percentage, not even a number of votes and there is no data for that.
Q: So you would be willing to have a debate with the chairman of the Election “Commission”?
A: Definitely, and of course both of us know that they are not going to have that because it’s part of the propaganda machine of Museveni. But we as people, as Ugandans, as people that know Uganda well, we know that. But the West, they don’t know that, and that it one of my task and it can help for me to be white [explaining to other Europeans], to explain to these white people in the West that please when you look at Uganda, look at the facts. Please talk to Ugandans themselves, don’t just follow the media, but talk to Ugandans. If you talk to Ugandans you will find out that the results that they have published is total fake.
Q: So once you have collated as much information as you can, based on the data that are being transmitted do you plan to write a comprehensive final report, because this might be also useful in enlightening some of these people in the West?
A: Yes definitely, we will document as good as possible what the information is that we have. Obviously at this moment we are waiting for the Election Commission to publish their breakdown because we can’t publish our breakdown. We have it, we have a transparent system. We have shared with some journalists and election experts our results, but we know that if we publish them now, then in Kampala they will say ‘oh, that’s where we are caught, we need to change some DOR forms’ in Kitgum or wherever. We have to wait until the election commission publishes their breakdown, then we can show them the proof that it is a total fantasy.
Q: Aren’t they mandated to publish it by a certain date? Might they decide to just wait indefinitely fearing what you might come up with?
A: Well actually according to the constitution they should publish it in two days and they just published the final results which is just a total non-information because a percentage of 59 % (the total “awarded” to Museveni) without telling where that information came from is worthless. So they already violated that part of the constitution. But it also says, the constitution says that it should be transparent and parties should be able to check it, and all of that it not the case.
Q: That sounds like sufficient grounds not to even accept those results then.
A: Definitely. Those results should not be accepted. Everybody that has a little bit of intelligence and can talk to Ugandans will quickly find out that there were no conditions for honest elections, that non of those conditions have been met.
Q: So Bobi Wine has spoken about the need for forensic investigation. How might such an investigation be conducted and what would it reveal?
A: That investigation would reveal the large scale fraud that it happening in Uganda. I can’t say who should be doing that research. It should obviously be an independent party. I mean the European Union has always sent election observers to Uganda, in 2011, and 2016. So now that they already know about elections in Uganda and surely they could provide a good team. But I’m also sure the U.S. would be able to do the same.
Q: Would you, at some point, be willing to present, and testify before any body, let’s say the United Nations, or the EU, or a Ugandan court, or even the United States Congress if these situations can be arranged?
A: Yes, definitely. That is the reason why we collected all this data, to make it public. That is why when the Internet was off and the announcement was made, Ugandans were so happy that at least there were people that did count the vote. That is why we adopted the hashtag #Counteveryvote because that it what this is about, that is what democracy is about, count every vote. And although we don’t have final results, because we only have 13% of the polling stations, and about 15% to 16% of the voters, but we will just keep on counting as long as information comes in and we will show that the information that we have is representative for the whole of Uganda because the picture that we also share on our website it also a consistent picture. That the Central and the East have large majorities for Kyagulanyi, about 80%, in the North it’s just a small win for Kyagulanyi, and in the West it is still an exciting race, which is totally consistent with the surveys that I did in October and November, and which is something that anyone can easily verify themselves by talking to some people in these districts. I mean now in the era of WhatsApp it’s so easy to contact people. I’m here in my office in Amsterdam, and I have spoken to thousands of Ugandans in the last week through WhatsApp.
Q: Maybe you can comment on this too. There was a story in The Daily Monitor, Uganda’s independent daily newspaper, I don’t recall whether it was on the 15th or the 16th, and it said, by that time Museveni had been awarded 4.7 million votes by the Election Commission, which of course that he himself appointed and the Monitor article said a new batch of votes came in, and they added the totals to all the candidates, based on what was apportioned, and that after they did that, general Museveni’s votes went down by 129,000 votes, and I tweeted at some point that this might support people that have been saying these numbers are just being manufactured. And then a few hours later, that article was deleted from The Monitor’s website—how does that strike you?
A: Yeah, I did hear about this. I didn’t even really investigate this because I don’t think there are many people who trusted the media at all, but obviously it’s a good example.
Q: Okay so now I have another question, in terms of the trend based on the survey that you did, months before the election, at what point was general Museveni’s support highest and at what point was it lowest? First of all the figure itself, percentage high what did he get and when was that, and then his lowest and when was that?
A: Yes, the highest was actually October when I started, because at that moment the violence was not too much yet and there was some propaganda saying you have to vote for Museveni then peace will continue and people just because of fear they go with that story and they didn’t vote for Kyagulanyi yet [in the survey] but then when the nomination day came, the violence increased, and people just saw the dead bodies in the streets and they were obviously they were by forces paid by general Museveni. There was just no way of defending that anymore. You could see people changing their opinion. Another interesting example of this is, I was speaking to these people, and obviously there were people that were undecided. I had one gentleman who was undecided, in November I asked him again, who would you vote for? He said ‘I definitely have made up my mind.’ He told me he was arrested because he had been walking down the road with a red beret. He was thrown into jail, he was abused, he lost his valuables, and released the next day. And he told me ‘Obviously I’m a Kyagulanyi supporter.’
Q: So I have just two more questions. What are the best possible expectations that you have in terms of the numbers continuing to come in, what is the total that you think you may end up, I mean obviously you want to get all, is what you’re hoping, but based on your expectations what do you think, or is it very hard to tell at this stage?
A: No I think, given the surveys, and given, I’m looking at my screen now, and I see general Museveni at 25% and if the non-doctored results they would go up to maybe 28% to general Museveni if we add more polling stations from the West. However what we also see, we see many doctored DOR forms.This afternoon I saw a DOR form, I forgot the district but with zero votes for Kyagulanyi, and it was actually in the border between Central and Eastern, and it didn’t make any sense that Kyagulanyi would have zero votes, so it was clearly a doctored result, which is also in line with the reports that people are making. That voters were chased away. That agents were chased away, especially opposition agents, that soldiers just stuffed the ballot boxes, so obviously when these kind of things happen then you get a big score for Museveni.
And even with those false DORs, I don’t even think he would get to 40% because there are just too many polling stations where people did check the final results, where there is an enormous win for Kyagulanyi. So the only thing that really can happen is if the West says ‘no more support for this government’ and says ‘now we demand honest elections.’ And honest elections first of all means all parties have access to the media and that there is no large scale intimidation. Because if you remove those large scale intimidation then people are free to vote. Because there are many people who already have sympathy for the opposition, but they are still afraid. And so if there are free elections in free circumstances, in free conditions, with observers from the West, from Europe, from the U.K., then we could have a real score, then I think Museveni wouldn’t even get 10% of the vote.
Q: So in terms of a remedy, and this is the final question. Is a remedy possible in terms of actually proving that Bobi Wine is the winner of this election, and should be declared the president-elect and sworn in as president, or would the remedy be conducting fresh elections?
A: Well of course, I wish that Kyagulanyi would be sworn in as the president because he won these elections. But that is not going to happen because there is simply not an honest outcome of these elections. It is impossible. But one thing that is important is that general Museveni, he is torturing the Ugandan people with Western money. The $300 million loan that he got from the World Bank, the same day he routed that to the security forces. I’m from the Netherlands, and the Dutch government is supplying the justice department with $10 million, or Euros, every year, and we know that that money is simply used to abuse people. So all that money that Museveni depends on, we in the West, if we stop sending that money, we don’t even have to boycott Uganda, we just have to stop sending, just stop lending money to Museveni, then there is no other option for him as to give in and have free and fair elections.
Q: And hopefully that might happen sooner rather than five years from now?
A: Yes, definitely, Ugandan people are not going to accept this to wait for five more years.
Q: Any other final observation?
A: The final observation is that we know that Mr. Museveni is seen as the lion, and the lion is not going to give up eating animals unless you don’t feed it flesh anymore, and that flesh is given by the Western countries. So I see it as my task with Uvote to inform all these Western countries that the real winner of these Ugandan elections is Bobi Wine and that they have to think about the interest of Ugandans.
Editor’s Note: Click on the link to see Petition calling on the Biden Administration not to recognize Gen. Museveni’s fraudulent election.