NTUNGAMO-Mr Justus Karuhanga, a former State House employee and nephew of First Lady Janet Museveni, has been contesting to be NRM flag bearer for Rushenyi MP seat against Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana since 2006.
When Mr Karuhanga lost in the October NRM primaries last year, he chose to take on Mr Rukutana on an Independent ticket unlike in 2006 and 2011 when he obliged by the NRM regulations not to contest against the party’s official candidate.
The election for the flag bearer was the most chaotic and controversial in western region.
Supporters of Mr Karuhanga burnt all ballot papers and other election materials from Ngoma Sub-county, protesting what they called rigging.
There were two other candidates; Mr Amon Kamugyene and Mr Herbert Nyongozi. Results were never announced.
Ms Maria Mirembe, the party registrar, claimed then that a computer virus destroyed the results.
After mediations and consultations involving the team led by Maj Rubaramira Ruranga, Mr Rukutana was announced the party flag bearer without announcing the number of votes each candidate polled.
Supporters of Mr Karuhanga at one time waylaid Mr Rukutana, who was campaigning together with his friend, Mr Bob Kabonero, and beat them up.
Mr Rukutana threatened to leave NRM and contest as an Independent.
He accused Mr Karuhanga of using state agencies to intimidate and harass his supporters.
“Mr Karuhanga has been campaigning, saying he comes from the First Family, is related to the First Lady and has been parading security personnel to campaign for him.
This is unfortunate because I also have relationships which I can use. It is not good to harass my supporters,” Mr Rukutana told journalists at his home on the eve of the election.
Mr Mohammed Byabasheija Rwomushana, Moses Mugisha, Mr Paul Karibwende and Joshua Atukunda, all independents, and Mr Dan Rweiburingi Kiriyo of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) are the other candidates in the race.
The constituents, however, maintain that the real contest is between Mr Rukutana, who is also the Deputy Attorney General, and Mr Karuhanga, also a lawyer.
Some voters read dynastic politics in Mr Karuhanga’s unwavering determination to take the seat. His close relatives served as leaders of the constituency. Some see greed in Mr Rukutana’s seeking for a fourth term.
The community has not been spared the tribal politics in the past and presently. Located on the border of Ntungamo District with Kabale District and Nyagatare District of the Republic of Rwanda, Rushenyi is a cosmopolitan constituency. There are diverse tribes, including Rwandans, Bakiga and Banyakole.
The customs and values of such tribes have somehow got fused. The people, to a greater degree, live in harmony socially and economically.
However, it is politics that has been threatening the unity. The constituency is composed of Ngoma, Rugarama, Kayonza and Rubaare sub-counties and Rubaare Town Council.
Some mobilisers of Mr Rukutaana and Mr Karuhanga are rallying support by invoking tribal sentiments. Mr Rukutana, who has been area MP since 1998, belongs to the Banyankole sub-group of cultivators, who, together with the Bakiga, largely derive their livelihood by growing crops.
Mr Karuhanga, on the other hand, belongs to Banyankole sub-group, who together with Banyarwanda, largely survive on rearing cattle.