As former Mbale District Woman Member of Parliament Nagudi Wangwe Rutangye wonders whether to have another go at the constituency that eluded her in 2011, the incumbent, Ms Connie Nakayenze Galiwango (NRM), has already indicated that she will run again -- to accomplish the tasks she started.
A tough-talking secondary school teacher of music and history, previously unknown, Ms Galiwango ran away with the seat in 2011 on the promise of salvaging the rural woman in Mbale from poverty, improving social service, especially in public health, and fighting for the welfare of teachers. There will likely be an audit of her progress in that direction at the next polls.
The opposition Forum for Democratic Change party has lined up Ms Marriam Nagudi, who has been trounced twice in the same constituency (2006 and 2011) and Ms Margaret Wokuri Madanda, a former research and policy analyst at the party headquarters ahead of what promises to be another exciting contest.
Other contenders include Ms Fatuma Namutosi, formerly a news anchor at Step Television, and Ms Shadia Luwungule, a former student at the Islamic University in Uganda.
But what could really be a game changer is the news that the ruling party vote could be divided by the expected entry of former East African Legislative Assembly MP Lydia Wanyoto Mutende, into the race.
In a race which was marred by electoral malpractices, Ms Galiwango beat Ms Nagudi (FDC), who garnered 43,256 votes to become the first runner-up, Ms Wangwe Rutangye (Independent) garnered 7,527 and the UPC’s Robinah Masibo who got 3,056.
Mbale district has a total of 217, 467 voters.
Opposition forces now say Ms Galiwango has failed in what she set out to do.
“She made many promises that she has failed to fulfill. She has become very arrogant and emotional, especially when you ask her about the promises and when you talk about Ms Wanyoto she tells you off straight away,” says Ms Sarah Wamboya, a local leader.
Ms Wanyoto for her part told the Saturday Monitor that she wants to serve the people in Mbale. “My decision to contest for the Mbale District woman seat should not be confused,” she said. “I just want my people to know that I have been driven by the passion to serve them and develop them. I do not have any problem with my sister Galiwango. She is my area MP. I respect her, but I have to come against her in 2016.”
But while Ms Wanyoto projects a public image of civility, behind-the-scenes word is that there is no love lost between her and the incumbent. Locals fear that the Wanyoto-Galiwango wrangles could set the stage for a chaotic run-up to the 2016 general elections.
Ms Galiwabngo has her backers. For instance, Mr Sulaiman Waniale, a member of her election taskforce, maintains that: “Our MP has done well. She has lobbied for us in Parliament and represented our women well. She has many plans for the people in Mbale District. Why don’t we give her another term as an MP?”
But the internal strife in the NRM could cost the party the seat in a constituency which President Museveni dominated in 2011, winning more than 70 per cent of the vote, pundits say.
“Besides infighting within the NRM party, there is nothing government has done for us. Ever since they took over the constituency, we don’t have anything to show. The target now is to get a good candidate from any party provided we find her development-minded,” said Mr Sulaiman Masifa, a local opinion leader.
Mbale LC5 chairman, Mr Bernard Mujasi, who refused to commit himself on a particular choice, said NRM supporters in the district will choose their leader.
“Ms Galiwango has played her part, many of us are grateful but we don’t decide for everyone. For now, these are all our daughters, we need to look at them squarely,” said Mr Mujasi.
The NRM chairperson for Mbale Municipality, Mr Zubairi Galiwango, is however, optimistic that President Museveni will intervene to quell any animosity between Ms Galiwango and Ms Wanyoto.
“We shall definitely forward this matter to the President to sort out. And I know that with the President’s intervention,we shall have peace,” he said.
It seems though that the perceived power struggle between the President and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, could be more of a factor in the district woman race. Like Mr Mujasai, Bungokho LC3 chairperson Ahmed Washaki (independent) hinted that this perceived struggle could leave the ground divided as many people now do not know where to belong.
“When you belong to Mr Mbabazi, you are victimised and when you belong to President Museveni, it is the same story. So, the camp that will wield a lot of power in 2016 is likely to help their candidates go through. I don’t belong to NRM but that is my thinking,” he said.
Ms Gwaliwango is the wife of Dr Hassan Galiwango, the NRM director for mobilisation and recruitment and both of them have been branded as being in the pro-Mbabazi camp. She, however, refutes this allegation, noting instead that “the NRM primaries will decide the flag bearer in 2016 and then each of us will know where he/she belongs”.
“Those who haven’t benefited from my projects are the ones who keep loitering in the constituency and expect to meet me along the roads to give them something but I am in touch with my people, I have projects for the people,” Ms Galiwango said.
Like the NRM, the opposition FDC does not seem to have its house in order either with Ms Madanda Wokuri fearing that she is likely to face undue opposition in the party primaries.