Campaigns for the Rukungiri Woman MP race are intensifying as six candidates rally support for the May 29 parliamentary by-election.
Ms Betty Muzanira (FDC), Ms Winfred Masiko (NRM) and former Public Service minister, Ms Sezi Mbaguta (Independent), are central figures, having competed for the seat earlier.
Ms Masiko is more of a permanent feature in Rukungiri women politics. She first represented the district in Constituent Assembly in 1994 and contested for the MP seat in 1996 but lost to Ms Winnie Babihuga. In 2001, she defeated Ms Babihuga.
Ms Masiko went on to win the 2006 election defeating Ms Ingrid Turinawe, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) secretary for mobilisation.
She took the seat for the third time in 2016 after beating Ms Mbaguta to the NRM ticket and Ms Muzanira. However, Ms Muzanira challenged her victory, which was sealed by the Court of Appeal on March 22.
Culture, religion and parties
In Rukungiri, culture/tribe, religion and political party shape the poll other than one’s capability and promises/manifesto.
Bakiga and Bahororo, and Catholics and Anglicans are the dominant tribes and religions respectively.
FDC and NRM are the dominant political parties. Dr Kizza Besigye, a four-time presidential contender, hails from Rukungiri District.
According to the Rukungiri District five-year development plan, Bakiga comprise a bigger number of the residents in the district.
They mainly occupy sub-counties of Bugangari, Bwambara, Nyakishenyi, Kebisoni and Nyarushanje and sparsely spread in other sub-counties. The Bahororo mainly occupy Nyakagyeme, Ruhinda, Buhunga, Buyanja and part of Kebisoni sub-counties.
The Catholics are a dominant religion followed by Anglicans and Muslims.
Ms Muzanira and Ms Mbaguta are both Bakiga and Catholics. The talk among the electorate is that Ms Mbaguta is also NRM-sponsored for the purpose of reducing Ms Muzanira’s support among Catholics and Bakiga.
This is seen as a ploy so that Ms Masiko could win with the undivided support of Bahororo and Anglicans to which he belongs.
The race in 2016 was between Ms Masiko and Ms Muzanira who polled 58,994 votes (51.69 per cent) and 54,966, votes (48.31 per cent) respectively. Religion and culture were apparently at play though there was also NRM and FDC factor.
Mr Eldard Turyahamugisha, an elder, however, says many people now think more in terms of political parties than tribes and religion.
“We shall vote parties. In Rukungiri, we know the issues that parties bring are relevant to our needs. As any person can tell you, this is going to be a referendum on amending the Constitution,” he says.
Presidential age limit
The issue of the Constitution Amendment of Article 102 (b) which polarised sections of the public is also a factor. It remains to be seen if this will play to the advantage of Ms Muzanira.
Ms Masiko’s support for lifting of presidential age limit could also work against her.
“I don’t think there are other serious issues in this election apart from the amending of Constitution (lifting presidential age limit). We are hearing voices on religion, tribes and others but I think they are not serious. This is like a referendum (on supporting or opposing recent Constitution changes),” says Mr John Rwaburingwa, the Rukungiri District UPC chairman.
Mr Fred Kigango, a former Bugangari Sub-county councillor, says politics of sectarianism and division is being fought though he does not rule it out.
“We are fronting two parties, FDC and NRM; we want to know who has more support in the district. FDC has two MPs and NRM has been having two. We want to see who gets three. The Bakiga/Bahororo question will be solved socially not politically. Religion? We will go to where we belong after the elections but it won’t be a matter now,” says Mr Kigango.
More than 95 per cent of the political leaders of Rukungiri Municipality belong to FDC party. NRM commands 54 per cent in the district council, FDC has 36 per cent and the rest are Independents.
FDC already has Mr Fred Turyamuhweza (MP Rujumbura) and Mr Rolland Kaginda (Rukungiri Municipality). With the nullification of Ms Masiko’s election, NRM now has only Ms Paul Turyahika (MP Rubabo). Do the candidates’ profiles and promises to the voters excite them? To Mr Turyahamugisha, it is about parties now.
Condensed profiles of parliamentary by-election contenders
Born in Rwakabengo, Rukungiri Municipality in 1954, Ms Masiko is married to Dr Masiko Boniface. A teacher, Masiko later did a bachelor’s degree in human resource management and a master’s in public administration at Makerere University. She represented Rukungiri District in the Constituency Assembly in 1994.
Born in 1968 in Rushasha Nyakagyeme Sub-county, Muzanira joined Rukungiri Teachers College for certificate and diploma in education. She later upgraded to a degree in primary education at Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi. In 2011, she served as Rukungiri Municipal Council speaker.
She was born 1985 in Buhunga Sub-county. She went to Nyakibare Upper Primary School, Immaculate Heart Girls Secondary for O-Level and Valley College Bushenyi for A- Level. She did a bachelor’s degree in environmental health science at Makerere University, and a post graduate diploma in health services management from Kabale University.
She is born in Bugangari Sub County. She joined Kyambogo for a diploma in education followed by a degree in the same field at Makerere University. She holds a Masters in Public Management. She was appointed minister of State for Public Service in 2007. Prior, she served as commissioner pensions in the same ministry.
Sheila Atukunda Kirebete
She was born in Buyanja Sub-county in 1984. She has a master of arts degree in public administration and management from Uganda Christian University, a bachelor of arts in social works and social administration from Makerere University. She has been working for Compassion International, a Christian children ministry organisation.
She was born in 1992 in Kitunguru Village, Kazindiro Parish, Bugangari Sub-county. She went to Rwanyanja and Luwero Girls primary schools, St Francis Iganga for O-Level and Busia Girls for A- Level. She studied public administration and management at Nkumba University and graduated in 2016. She worked at Civil Aviation Authority in Entebbe.