Thursday May 22 2014

Luweero polls: Abuse of power by police and why NRM is panicking

By Karoli Ssemogerere

Residents of Luweero District go to the polls today to cast votes for the third time since 2011. The February 2011 by-election was set aside upon the petition of an NRM politician.

The subsequent by-election had the law of unintended consequences. DP’s Brenda Nabukenya who had lost the race for Katikamu North emerged victor with the thinnest of margins - 30 to be exact, defeating a former NRM MP, Rebecca Nalwanga.

Ms Nabukenya seems to have used her two-year tenure well in Parliament, representing the emotional heartland of the ruling NRM party.

There were no major gaffes for a first-time MP representing 13 sub-counties at the heart of the Luweero Triangle. But from the look of things, the ruling party has been forced into the role of playing sore loser, heightening the stakes in a by-election that’s only months away from the next general election. NRM has reason to worry for the fact that its electoral firewall in Buganda has continued to show signs of wear and tear.

In 2016, NRM will be defending the majority of its nearly 60 seats in Parliament in Buganda from the dangerous steering wheel of third term MPs who tend to fare worse than first or second term MPs.

Of its contingent in greater Luweero, only John Chrysostom Muyingo, an NRM-leaning independent from Bamunaanika County, will be running for a second term.

Abraham Byandala (Katikamu North), Syda Namirembe Bbumba (Nakaseke District) and Edward Makubuya (Katikamu South) are in the third and fourth terms in Parliament.

The youngest in this contingent, Information Minister Rosemary Nsereko Namayanja, is throwing in the towel after three terms in Parliament.

Luweero is the birthplace of political handouts first designed to compensate victims of the NRM Bush War, putting them in the position of having been victims of tortuous acts of agents of the Government of the Republic of Uganda.

According to ICT State Minister Nyombi Thembo - a former State Minister for Luweero - NRM, in 28 years, has been able to reach about 60 per cent of the war claimants, leaving a balance of 40 per cent filed claims.

This is just part of the problem. As Mr Museveni must already know, some of the folks who “squandered” their fortune are eagerly looking at him for a second turn at compensation. Bulemeezi and Buruli counties were once priority areas for cotton, livestock farming and large-scale coffee farming.

The latter two activities are now in the hands of recent economic arrivals. Land in Bulemeezi is changing hands at a very rapid clip. Its fertile soils score much better than those in metropolitan counties of Busiro, Kyaddondo, Mawokota, some of which are rapidly turning into semi-rural wastelands.

Mr Museveni’s political briefers have made a mistake for blaming Ms Nalwanga for a tepid showing on the campaign trail. Ms Nalwanga is a very likeable person. But the yearning public’s economic expectations of their MPs, particularly from the ruling party, have put politicians like her in an impossible situation.

The fear of losing informs some of the harshness with which they allow their names to be misused in political campaigns.

On nomination day, Ms Nabukenya began her campaign in a tirade of tear gas for turning her campaign convoy onto the main Gulu-Kampala highway in Luweero. The police officer in charge of this abuse of police power was stood down. His replacement, Grace Turyagumanawe, again in a cowardly act of “crowd control” meted out the same treatment to Ms Nabukenya’s campaign entourage on Tuesday night.
In a cliff-hanger that Luweero has become, these and changing voter sentiment may send Nabukenya right back to Parliament.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate.