Uganda: Ankole NRM Independents Remain Museveni’s Big Pain

President Museveni may not be worried about his performance in his traditional stronghold of Ankole but he is likely to face a big challenge of resolving the outcome of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party Parliamentary primary elections that were marred by violence.

The NRM presidential candidate has completed vote hunting in West Nile, Karamoja, northern and eastern sub-regions but he is more overwhelmed by calls to convince Independent candidates out of the parliamentary race back home in Ankole.

As he ended his three-day campaign trail in Ankole sub-region yesterday, NRM delegates in Ntungamo town asked him to find time to meet all the independent parliamentary candidates to listen to their issues.

The NRM leaders believe the President has the verbal arsenal to persuade the independents out of the race so that the party flag bearers have unassailable advantage over the Opposition.

During Mr Museveni’s campaign meeting in Bushenyi town yesterday, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, the NRM regional Vice Chairperson for western region, said he made attempts to mediate between the flag bearers and the Independents but his efforts were fruitless.

“I had come here when we were harmonising some of our people who had contested as Independents. Some of them asked that if you have time to meet them, they can discuss the reasons why. They also say that if they hear from you, they can pull out of the race,” Dr Baryomunsi said.

Losers in the NRM primaries in many of the contested areas in Ankole returned as Independents, something that is giving the party flag bearers sleepless nights.

In Igara West, Prof Tarsis Kabwegyere, one of the NRM historical members, returned to contest against party flag bearer Gaffa Mbwatekamwa, who defeated 10 others to win the flag for a constituency vacated by Local Government minister Raphael Magyezi.

Still in Bushenyi District, Ms Annet Katusiime Mugisha who defeated Ms Mary Karoro Okurut, the Minister for General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister, is being challenged by NRM leaning Independent Ms Madina Lukwago.

In the hotly contested race for NRM flag bearer in Sheema District, Science and Technology minister Dr Elioda Tumwesigye lost and is running as an Independent against former Uganda Revenue Authority commissioner, Mr Dickson Kateshumbwa.

Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, the Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, is being challenged by Prof Elijah Mushemeza for Sheema South seat. The Sheema District Woman MP seat has also not been spared as incumbent Jacklet Atuhaire has returned as an Independent to challenge the flag bearer and former MP, Ms Rosemary Nyakikongoro.

Rev Can David Kabigumira, Sheema District LC5 chairman, told Daily Monitor yesterday that the main focus for the party leaders in the area is to secure a landslide victory for President Museveni before looking at the development agenda of each of the candidates for parliamentary seats.

Despite not being known as an Opposition stronghold, Ntungamo District is another battleground where there continues to be a strong contest between State minister for Labour, Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana and his rival Ms Naome Kabasharira. The two battled for Rushenyi County NRM flag and the September 4 primaries turned ugly. Mr Rukutana was subsequently arrested for allegedly shooting at Ms Kabasharira’s supporters. He was charged and later released on bail. He is awaiting trial. However after protracted petitions between him and Ms Kabasharira, the NRM secretariat declared Mr Rukutana, the flag bearer for Rushenyi.

Ahead of President Museveni’s campaigns in Mbarara on Monday, the NRM leaders from Ibanda and Kazo districts were also decrying the return of party members as Independents.

The State Minister for Economic Monitoring, Ms Molly Kamukama, returned as an Independent against flag bearer Jeniffer Muheesi for Kazo District Woman MP seat while in Ibanda North, Maj Guma Gumisiriza is in the race as an Independent after losing to Xavier Kyooma in the primaries.

The upsurge of Independent candidates from party members who lost the primaries spreads across to Mitooma, Rubirizi, Rwampara, Isingiro and Kiruhura districts.

Mr Gordon Arinda, the Bushenyi-Ishaka Municipality MP, who decided to support the flag bearer, Mr Derrick Kabuura after losing to him in the primaries, said party mobilisers will have to move home to home to campaign for the party candidates.

“I am moving with the flag bearer everywhere to show that the party is mightier than us the individuals. We had fairly credible primary elections and those who were chosen by God were picked,” Mr Arinda said.

Karamoja Affairs minister John Byabagambi while speaking in Mbarara on Monday charged at party members who insist on contesting as Independents after losing in the primaries. Giving his example, Mr Byabagambi said the next five years will be used to assess the potential of whoever will be elected the new MP of Ibanda South.

Mr Byabagambi castigated the party flag bearers who team up with Independent candidates in other areas to fight flag bearers.

“You find a flag bearer campaigning for an independent (on another seat). I have retired because politics is no alpha and omega. Don’t force yourselves on people,” Mr Byabagambi said.

The East African Community and Regional Affairs minister, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, let out a loose cannon on National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi when he said there is no way the Luweero Bush War fighters can accept being led by a musician.

“Uganda is in trouble because everyone has come, the musicians and the pastors. If you want to dance, do it. There is no one to stop you. I love the songs of Kyagulanyi but Kyagulanyi leading me will be taking me where? We who came from Luweero, how will Kyagulanyi lead us?” Gen Otafiire said.

He alleged that there are other people backing Mr Kyagulanyi to cause meaningless change in Uganda. He did not substantiate his claim.

He backed up Mr Museveni’s remarks while in Kotido District two weeks ago that people who protested after Mr Kyagulanyi was arrested in Luuka District on November 18 were being “supported by homosexuals.” Mr Museveni too did not back up his claim with any evidence or substantiation.

Mr Kyagulanyi has repeatedly laughed off the claims as baseless and panic utterances by the President.

Museveni speaks

NRM achievements

Both in Bushenyi and Mbarara, the President did not open up on the issue of the Independents but rather concentrated on his message to the delegates as he continues to urge them to tell people of how NRM has transformed the country.

Speaking in Bushenyi yesterday, Mr Museveni asked the party leaders to explain to people that NRM having “corrected” the ideological mistakes of the past regimes, has contributed immensely to the economic growth of the country.

“Now we have been able to attract investors through making it easy for them by liberalising the economy and privatisation. The economy of Uganda is the fifth fastest growing in the whole world, according to American publishers Bloomberg,” Mr Museveni said.

“Where we have reached there is nothing to fail us because we have the money. The only remaining thing is about equal distribution of the resource envelope and ending corruption”.

Compiled by Misairi Thembo Kahungu, Milton Bandiho & Rajab Mukombozi


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