KAMPALA. As the political race gathers pace, about 20 parliamentary seats are up for grabs so far after the incumbent MPs publicly declared they would not contest in the upcoming 2016 elections.
The MPs, both from ruling NRM and Opposition, have either gracefully bowed out or extended an olive branch to their rivals to contest and win the voters’ favour.
Some, like the Soroti Municipality MP Mike Mukula, are standing on the higher pedestal saying “any good leader must retire when still popular”. Others did not want to backtrack on earlier promises to constituents that they would serve for a specific period of time and quit.
There is also a category of those who are eyeing better opportunities elsewhere than the highly unpredictable political terrain.
Nakaseke Woman MP Rose Namayanja, says she made up her mind not to contest come 2016 way back in 2012 because she had served enough in that position.
“I am not going to contest again. I declared that position on December 7, 2012 and my new appointment does not require me to contest or hold any other position other than serving the party diligently. I will concentrate on building and strengthening the party,” said Ms Namayanja, who is the NRM treasurer.
Unlike other candidates elsewhere, in Nakaseke District, the MP contested and was elected unopposed in 2006.
“In 2011, I contested again and I scored 88 per cent and at the time when I decided to take that decision, there was no competitor. It’s a personal decision. The support has been massive and the voters have been quarreling over my decision but I cannot reverse it,” she affirmed.
It is also clear that some MPs upon realisation that they would not make it to Parliament in the coming election owing to the dwindling support from their constituents, have taken a decision to bow out before they can spend on costly campaigns.
An MP who did not want to be named for fear of being criticised by his colleagues, said most MPs who foresee that they will not make it back to the next Parliament have decided that the wise thing to do is to pull out before they can be embarrassed.
Ms Namayanja and three others: Ms Justine Kasule Lumumba, Mr Richard Todwong and Dr Kenneth Omona were appointed by the NRM Central Executive Committee to serve as treasurer, secretary general, deputy secretary general and deputy treasurer respectively.
While their constituencies are predominantly NRM, the Opposition is warming up for the seats.
The four assumed full time roles at the NRM party headquarters and will not contest in 2016.
“I will be busy with my full time job employed at the NRM secretariat. It is a full time job,” said Dr Omona.
Asked to comment about the many NRM candidates bowing out, Dr Omona said: “There are so many reasons people decide to quit their parties. (Mike) Mukula (Soroti Municipality MP) had in the previous elections hinted he could not contest but returned all of a sudden. People can decide to take a break and others want to participate from another level.”
Of the 20 MPs who have declared they will not run, 12 are from the ruling NRM party, three from DP, four from FDC and one independent.
Some observers say the NRM exits may have far reaching implications since the Opposition may take advantage of the opportunities to field stronger candidates.
But Dr Tanga Odoi, the NRM party electoral commission chairperson, thinks otherwise.
“The gaps are good because these are constituencies where NRM has strongholds. For instance, Namayanja’s constituency is basically for NRM. Aruu MP Odonga Otto has also done his part and we will grab his constituency. We are not so worried,” he said.
He added: “Our people should remain organised so we get the best candidates.”
Mr Godfrey Ekanya, the Opposition Shadow minister, however, says the NRM “is on the verge of collapse, which is the reason they have not held by-elections to replace the NRM party leaders.
“We as the Opposition are going to field joint candidates to ensure that we beat the NRM. Four NRM party bosses are now at the secretariat but the NRM has failed to hold by-elections because they know that they do not have strong candidates to replace them,” Mr Ekanya said.
The Kinkizi West slot occupied by former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and the Ruhama County seat are likely to fall vacant since the former harbours political ambition for higher office while the latter has said she will not run again after getting “divine intervention”.
Mr Mbabazi has never publicly declared his political plan but at a wedding party for Buyaga West MP Barnabas Tinkasimire, he said time is ripe to answer those who have been urging him to contest for president.
Other MPs speak out
A decision to quit politics according to Mr Joseph Balikuddembe, the Busiro South constituency MP was informed by his commitment to keep a promise he made with the electorate.
Fresh from the university, he joined Parliament at 23 in 2004 following the death of his father, the late Patrick Mutebi who was then MP in that particular constituency.
“I have performed well and any good leader serves and leaves. President Museveni has been one since I was young. I told my people that I will serve for two and half terms and I don’t want to betray this commitment,” he said.
He intends to grow their law firm, Balikuddembe and Aisu Company Advocates.
“I will also be dealing in oil since I am a graduate in oil law and international commerce
Mr Mohammed Kawuma (Entebbe Municipality) is not any different from Mr Balikuddembe.
“I committed myself to serve and give way to others at some point. We are not immortal for what we do and we must always give chance to others,” he said. At 43, he will concentrate on his businesses
Most MPs indicated they would support those candidates that will make it in party primaries. Mr Christopher Acire (Gulu) is yet to make up his mind but cites “personal reasons” on whether to quit or not.
“I may not contest for the same position but I may look for another position. People are requesting me to come back but due to my personal issues, I may not. I have told them that I am unable to continue being active in the area,” Mr Acire said.
He emphasises that people should always decide when to join and when to quit politics to avoid being embarrassed so that they retire when they are still popular.
Kakuuto MP Mathias Kasamba is quitting to contest for the East African Legislative Assembly while others: Isa Kikungwe (Kyaddondo South) Peter Omolo (Soroti County), Kaddu Mukasa (Mityana) and Hussein Kyanjo (Makindye West) had health complications. They have all hinted on quitting politics.
Former vice president Gilbert Bukenya has also previously said he will join a united Opposition to generate a momentum that will oust President Museveni from power in 2016.He is yet to confirm whether or not he will contest for the presidency.
SOME OF The MPS
Amama Mbabazi (Kinkizi West, NRM)?
Dr Gilbert Bukenya (Busiro North, NRM)?
Janet Museveni (Ruhaama, NRM)
Mike Mukula, (Soroti, NRM)
Christopher Acire (FDC, undecided)
Joseph Balikuddembe (DP, Busiro South)
Mohammed Kawuma, (Entebbe Municipality, DP)
Rose Namayanja (Nakaseke, NRM)
Kenneth Omona (Kaberamaido, NRM)
Richard Todwong, (Nwoya, NRM)
Kasule Lumumba (Bugiri Women, NRM)
Maria Mutagamba, (Rakai, NRM)
Rose Najjemba (Gomba, NRM)
Odonga Otto (Aruu, FDC)
Baliddawa Kafuufu (Kigulu, NRM)
Issa Kikungwe (Kyaddondo South, DP)
Kaddu Mukasa (Mityana independent)
Hussein Kyanjo (Makindye, FDC)
Mathias Kasamba (Kakuuto,NRM)
MP Peter Omollo (Soroti County)