BUGIRI/PALLISA/KOTIDO. On July 10, voters of Bugiri Municipality will go to the polls to elect a Member of Parliament.
The voters will choose from five contestants namely; Mr John Francis Oketcho (NRM), Mr Asuman Basalirwa (Jeema), Mr Eunice Namatende (FDC), Mr Siraji Lyavala Samanya and Mr Joel Wamono, both Independents.
Bugiri Municipality, carved out of Bukholi North Constituency, has two divisions (eastern and western) and Naluwerere, Nkusi, Ndifakulya and Bwole wards.
According to the Electoral Commission (EC), there are 19 villages and 28 polling stations in the newly created municipality.
The seat has inadvertently thrust the former FDC presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye, and Independent-leaning crowd puller Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu, also known as Bobi Wine, on opposing ends of the campaign trail.
While FDC apologists believe Mr Basalirwa ‘betrayed’ Dr Besigye in 2016 when he supported Go Forward presidential candidate, Mr Amama Mbabazi, consensus is that Dr Besigye is towing the party line as an FDC member.
“Besigye did the same in Kyadondo East when he decided to support the FDC flag bearer (Apollo Kantinti) and not Bobi Wine who was his friend,” Mr Fred Mutibwa, Ms Namatende’s lead campaign manager, says.
Dr Joel Isabirye, a media consultant, says: “Besigye is right to stick with the institutional choice (the FDC candidate) because it presents him as an orderly person. When you become random and today support a candidate chosen by the party then on the next day you go with an Independent, when your time comes it is difficult for people to rally behind you as you would be perceived as being unreliable and undisciplined.”
Dr Moses Khisa, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University in the United States, reckons Dr Besigye and Mr Basalirwa’s fallout dates back to the 2016 General Election.
“The reason is simple, FDCs’ (party members) believe Mr Basalirwa betrayed Besigye in 2016 when he went with Mr Mbabazi. Bobi Wine is more of a freewheeling guy; so it is easy for him to go with Mr Basalirwa while Dr Besigye is forced by FDC fanatics to ditch Mr Basalirwa and stay with the party candidate. In all, it tells something about our troubled politics,” Dr Khisa says.
According to Dr Isabirye, considering how much Mr Basalirwa has been supportive of different Opposition figures in court - including Dr Besigye, he should have rallied behind him, but there is need to respect the party position the same way Jeema’s position to support Mr Mbabazi in the 2016 presidential election should be respected.
Meanwhile in Pallisa District, the EC cleared two candidates to contest for Pallisa Woman MP namely; Ms Faith Alupo (NRM) and Ms Catherine Osupelem Achola (FDC).
Other candidates, Ms Josephine Ibaseret, Ms Kevin Kaala Ojinga and Ms Betty Badda, all independents, pulled out of the race.
The seat fell vacant after the current MP, Ms Agness Amede, decided to remain in the new district of Butebo after it was carved out of Pallisa in 2017.
But the NRM party will have to do more to retain the seat.
“We are tired of NRM MPs who do not represent our views. We want change,” Ms Juliet Nabirwe, a resident, says.
Ms Achola, who is contesting for the second time for the seat after she lost in 2016 General Election, says it is time for her people to choose good leadership.
“They have been lagging behind due to poor leadership but now, it is time to use their vote and change the status quo,” she says.
Ms Achola pledges to improve service delivery in education and health.
Her rival, Ms Alupo, says her leadership will concentrate on improving service delivery, especially in health and education.
“I am ready to steer the district to a higher level through promoting accountability and good service delivery,” she says.
In Butebo, two candidates were nominated for the LC5 seat, including Mr James Okurut (Ind) and Mr Sam Keddi (NRM).
The EC declined to nominate FDC’s Sam Harwa over lack of requisite academic qualifications.
In Kotido, four candidates were nominated to contest in the newly created Kotido Municipality. Polls are scheduled to take place on July 17.
The contestants are Mr Peter Abraham Lokii (NRM), Mr Moses Okot Oryono (FDC), Mr Jean Mark Aporu (Ind) and Mr Keem Emmanuel (People’s Progressive Party).
Mr Linos Okori, the regional EC supervisor for Karamoja, warned the candidates against using abusive language and violence.
Seven new municipalities (Sheema, Ibanda, Nebbi, Apac, Bugiri, Kotido and Njeru) become operational in the next financial year, out of which only Njeru will not hold elections for a municipality MP, although there will be a municipal mayor. The rest will have municipality MPs, mayors, division mayors and councillors.
Ms Namatende, a teacher by profession, was born 31 years ago in Bukholi (current Bugiri District). The three-time candidate for the Bugiri Woman MP seat was in 2006, then aged just19, identified by Mr Wafula Oguttu, the former MP Bukholi Central, to contest for the slot against NRM secretary general Justine Kasule Lumumba. Ms Namatende says she will be a crusader for the voiceless and extend basic service delivery to residents.
The leader of Jeema and lawyer represented several Opposition figures, including Dr Besigye in court during the walk-to-work demonstrations. Mr Basalirwa cut his teeth in politics in 2001 when he was elected Makerere University guild president, defeating Mr Apollo Kashanku. He would later contest for the Bukooli County MP seat in 2016 and lose to Solomon Silwany.
Mr Lyavala, 60, is standing as an Independent candidate after losing in the NRM primaries to Mr Oketcho. His political career started in 1997 as district chairperson until 2011. He again contested in the Bugiri District by-election when the seat fell vacant following the imprisonment of the district chairperson, Mr Azalwa Malijan and assumed office between 2015 and 2016. Being an NRM-leaning Independent candidate, he faces competition from the official NRM party flagbearer.
Mr Wamono, 29, an Independent candidate has been the youth finance secretary at Bugiri Town Council. Once elected, Mr Wamono says he will lobby for more secondary schools and health centre IVs in Bugiri Municipality. He is married to Patricia Wamono.
The retired teacher and NRM party flagbearer is having his first shot at elective politics. Mr Oketcho previously worked for Coca Cola Company and currently works with a Busia-based NGO. He pledges good service delivery.
Ms Alupo, 52, the NRM flagbearer for Pallisa Woman MP and a social worker by profession, promises to improve service delivery, especially in health and education. Ms Alupo, who is running for the third time for the same seat, says she is well equipped and prepared to face FDC’s candidate. She is a resident of Apopong Sub-county.
Catherine Osupelem Achola
Ms Achola, 40, the FDC flagbearer, pledges to empower women by creating Saccos in order to fight household poverty. She is a resident of Kibale Sub-county.
Mr Keddi, 53, an accountant by profession and the NRM flagbearer for Butebo LC5 seat, pledges transparent and accountable leadership. “I will address pertinent issues such as the poor road network, education, health and increase household incomes,” he says. He is a resident of Katabunoni Village in Kaginima Sub-county.
Mr Okurut, 41, a teacher by profession and Independent candidate, pledges to fight tribalism and disunity, saying it is hindering development in the district. Mr Okurut also says he will fight poverty and poor education standards. He is a resident of Butebo Sub-county.