Sunday January 24 2016

Kyamadidi, Ngabirano in fierce battle for Rwampara

Rwampara incumbent MP  Vincent Kyamadidi accuses Rwizi region

Rwampara incumbent MP Vincent Kyamadidi accuses Rwizi region police commander Hilary Kulaige of failing to protect voters in Rwampara County during the NRM primaries at NRM offices in Kamukuzi, Mbarara District, last year. Photo by Felix Ainebyoona  

By RAJAB MUKOMBOZI & Felix Ainebyoona

After being defeated in the NRM primaries by Mr Charles Ngabirano, Mr Vincent Kyamadidi is running as an Independent for Rwampara County.

Over the past months, both candidates and their supporters on several occasions have engaged in violent clashes, with local authorities warning the camps to stop the lawlessness.

Mbarara- On January 14, the incumbent Rwampara MP, Mr Vincent Mujuni Kyamadidi, was nearly lynched while vote hunting in hilly Mwizi, the home sub-county of his political nemesis, Mr Charles Ngabirano.

His vehicle was reportedly pelted with stones by his opponent’s supporters. This is just a microcosm of how violent the contest, mainly on the side of the two, has become.

The other competitors, Ms Mercy Mworozi (Ind), Gordon Mutiima (Ind) and Wilberforce Ahimbisibwe of the Forum for Democratic Change are underdogs, perhaps because they are new comers.

About 10 years ago, Mr Kyamadidi was not known, at least in the political circles of Rwampara. He was relatively of young age and came from a humble background.

He had an underprivileged childhood, having been raised by his peasant mother singlehandedly in the hills of Bugamba Sub-county.
The fight in him or perhaps luck catapulted Mr Kyamadidi to Makerere University where he graduated with a Social Work and Social Administration degree.
He then secured a job at Mbarara University of Science and Technology as an administrator; then later worked at Mbarara District local government as personnel officer.

Mr Kyamadidi was among the proprietors of Excel, a private secondary school in Mbarara, that has since collapsed.

He honed his oratory and political skills through political commentary on FM radio stations and emceeing at parties. Politics then beckoned and Kyamadidi jumped into the murky waters he finds himself in today.
In 2006, he was elected to represent Bugamba Sub-county in Mbarara District Council. He then took a shot at Rwampara MP seat, hitting the target in the 2010 NRM primaries.

He surprisingly snatched the flag from Mr Ngabirano, who like his predecessor, Amon Muzoora, had served one term as the MP.
Mr Kyamadidi did not have much to offer other than his gift of exciting peasants with rhetoric and out-arguing his critics using facts, suspected lies and exaggerations.

His supporters then fundraised money for running his campaigns, buying him a motorcycle to enable him reach the voters.

Mr Kyamadidi went on to defeat Israel Kazooba (FDC), Ellady Muyambi (Ind), Eric Sunday Kanyabigyeya (Ind) and Julius Nkwatsibwe (Ind) in the 2011 general election.

After losing, Mr Ngabirano an equally articulate and down to earth gentleman did not wallow in self-pity, he went back to the drawing board.

Five years later, he flexed his strong financial muscle and dealt a devastating blow to Mr Kyamadidi in the October 27 , 2015 NRM primaries.
Even when Mr Kyamadidi petitioned NRM’s electoral commission to have the exercise repeated, which wish was granted, Mr Ngabirano still prevailed as results from the November 20 re-run released by Dr Tanga Odoi, the NRM EC boss indicate.

Mr Kyamadidi polled 12,983 votes to Ngabirano’s 31,228 votes in the eight-man race that was not devoid of violence and rigging.

Kyamadidi had petitioned the High Court in Mbarara to block his rival from being nominated as NRM flag bearer, but he later withdrew that petition.

Kyamadidi is now running on an Independent ticket. It emerged last week that the two have ring-fenced their respective home sub-counties; neither candidate can cross into the backyard of the other to canvass for votes.

A section of Mr Kyamadidi’s supporters stormed the office of the Resident District Commissioner on January 18, appealing to security officials to intervene.

Mr Edson Nasasira, a voter in Kyamadidi’s camp, said: “Mr Ngabirano and supporters are saying our candidate should not cross to Mwizi and if it is so, him and his supporters should take Bugamba as a no-go zone or else they will face our wrath.”

“Since NRM primary elections, some of us have never slept in our homes, we are threatened with kidnap,” said Mr Christo Karuhanga.

There are 17,800 registered voters in Bugamba and 16,000 in Mwizi. There are four sub-counties altogether in Rwampara constituency with 64,400 voters.

The district police commander, Mr Jaffer Magyezi, says police is already aware of the tension and have warned that they will not tolerate the lawlessness.

“We are aware of the candidates (Ngabirano and Kyamadidi) and supporters ring-fencing their areas of origin, but this is wrong, we will not tolerate it. We are going to engage both candidates and their supporters. This has to stop, a candidate has a right to campaign in the whole constituency freely,” said Mr Magyezi.
Kyamadidi has protested that his opponent “is playing primitive politics”.

“They are outside the democratic principles. If he can go and campaign in Bugamba and Ndeija, why ring-fence Mwizi, he thinks he will use his dirty tricks again to manipulate the Electoral Commission as he did in the NRM primaries, he must stop playing those dirty games and accept a fair ground to give the people of Rwampara the right to get a leader of their choice,” Mr Kyamadidi said.

In response, Mr Ngabirano says: “I have not ring-fenced Mwizi Sub-county as alleged, but because my opponent has limited support, he is using this as a scapegoat. These are just political tactics and he thinks he can disorganise my support.

He has a group that is terrorising my supporters all over Rwampara. Ask him how many files of election related-offences him and his supporters have at police.”

Police warn candidates
The RDC, Capt Martha Asiimwe, says: “I am warning that whoever is behind instigating violence, threatening and intimidating voters in Rwampara will be dealt with. Whether Kyamadidi, Ngabirano or their supporters, there is no one above the law, let them and their supporters stand warned. As security we are doing our best and residents should not get worried.”
The constituency was first represented by Francis Butagira (UPC then) who was followed by late Eriya Kategaya (NRM), Amon Muzoora (NRM), Charles Ngabirano (NRM) and Vincent Kyamadidi (NRM).
The incumbent maintains that he has popular support and was never defeated during the party primaries but was rigged out. He boasts of having lobbied for extension of electricity to Mwizi and Bugamba, and water to Ndeija, Rugando and Nyakayojo sub-counties.

He says the constituency now has three health centre IVs, up from two when he joined Parliament. He claims to have improved the road network.

Ngabirano too places his strengths on effective service delivery, good cadreship, mobilisation skills and good collaboration with government.
He said during his tenure he achieved much in the area of education, citing rehabilitation of Bugamba, Mwizi, Katukuru, Rushanje and Kinoni secondary schools; upgrading of Ruti-Mwizi-Ryamiyonga and Nyakyiraguju-Nyakigufu roads.

Mr Ngabirano also said he initiated tree and coffee planting projects where 1.5 million coffee seedlings and 1.8 million trees were planted. He also talks about extension electricity and water to the constituency.

“When you impregnate a woman and she delivers after she has married another man does the child she has produced become for this man or yours? In five years,it’s difficult to initiate, lobby and have projects done, most of the projects my opponent claims were lobbied and initiated during my tenure,” he told Sunday Monitor.

“I could be having weaknesses but in terms of leadership, cadreship and service delivery I think I am much better than the incumbent.”

Rival camps in violent clashes

Supporters of both candidates, including Mr Kyamadidi’s wife, Shifra, fought on November 20, 2015 at Kikonkoma Trading Centre in Bugamba at around 7pm. Mr Ngabirano, who was in the company of about 15 people travelling in two vehicles, accosted and blocked a convoy of four vehicles occupied by Mr Kyamadidi’s supporters.
In one of the vehicles was Shifra and in another were UPDF soldiers. Mr Ngabirano blocked them on suspicion that the vehicles were carrying people who were tampering with election results. Soldiers emerged and asked him why he had blocked them.
Mr Ngabirano replied that he suspected them to be escorting people who were rigging the election. In the process, Shifra’s driver emerged and assaulted Mr Ngabirano. The two wrestled each other as soldiers and other people from both camps looked on.

Ms Shifra then got out of her vehicle and began exchanging words with Ngabirano’s supporters. One of them assaulted her with a stick and others joined in kicking and punching her.

The soldiers did not intervene even when she called on them to shoot. Mr Ngabirano’s supporters assaulted a journalist with TV West, Mr Michael Tumwakiire, who was filming the drama and shattered his camera. Then a man emerged from a nearby house with a stone and hit Ngabirano’s vehicle, smashing one window.

The soldiers told Kyamadidi’s group to drive off as they escorted them. Ngabirano’s group was left at the scene.
There was another chaotic scene on the same day at about 2pm at Nyabikungu Trading Centre in Rugando Sub-county. This reporter witnessed it too.

Supporters of Kyamadidi saw a vehicle carrying voters and suspected they belonged to Ngabirano’s camp. When they approached it, the occupants took off. They then collected and piled dry banana leaves on it and attempted to set the vehicle ablaze, but police arrived in time and fired bullets in the air to disperse the crowd. The rowdy group later discovered that that the people they had harassed belonged to their political camp.