Rubaga North MP Beti Olive Kamya says she will not stand with the Forum of Democratic Change in the 2011 general elections, leaving the seat she has held for the last four years open for an interesting contest.
“The Ugandan Federal Alliance is my focus from now,” she told Daily Monitor last Wednesday.
Ms Kamya, a founder of the alliance, said if the pressure group became a political party, she would run for election under their ticket. But even if the UFA remains a civil society organisation, Ms Kamya implied that her days with the FDC are numbered.
“There is no law that prevents a civil society organisation from presenting a candidate for an election. Even if the UFA does not become a political party, it can still support me in 2011.”
Ms Kamya’s relationship with the FDC was rocky from its inception in 2004. She was thwarted in her attempts to become National Council vice president for Buganda region that year, and FDC national chairperson in 2005. She also ran for Secretary General, but fell out with the FDC leadership when they selected Ms Alice Alaso instead, seen as valuable for representing the eastern region.
Last year, the former special envoy to the FDC president was suspended from the FDC for six months for allegedly creating divisions in the party based on ethnicity and disrupting its activities.
Ms Kamya had argued that the criterion used by the FDC leadership to select the national chairman contravened the party constitution and showed discrimination against the Baganda, her tribe, within the party. She lost her post as minister of agriculture in the FDC shadow cabinet.
Ms Kamya did exceptionally well in the 2006 elections, polling more than double the number of votes of her nearest contender, Mr Kayongo Tom (NRM).
But will Ms Kamya poll so well without FDC support? Rubaga North has in the last two presidential elections consistently voted for Dr Kizza Besigye, who received 51.3 per cent of the votes in 2001 as head of the transient Reform Agenda and 55.1 per cent in 2001 as FDC flag bearer.
She failed in her 2001 attempt to enter Parliament as a representative with the Reform Agenda. Some FDC officials say Ms Kamya’s victories in the constituency are because of her association with the party.
“Kamya is an MP because of FDC support. We campaigned for her. We rallied for her and we fought hard for her,” said Joyce Sebugwawo, a long- standing party activist, “She will find it very difficult without our backing.”
Clearly, the new FDC candidate will be tough competition for the incumbent. But as yet, it is unclear who will stand for the party. An inside source said some ministers from the Buganda government were thinking seriously about stepping up to the challenge.
Ms Kamya will be focusing on one issue during the 2011 elections; the promotion of a federal system of government that would go far beyond the regional tier system that the central government wants to implement next year. She says the system is an attempt to appease the federalists, but UFA believes only constitutional change will ensure a fair system of government.
“There is a difference between delegating responsibility, which the regional tier advocates for and sharing wealth equitably,” she said. “Wealth should be shared constitutionally, not distributed through grants at the whim of the central government.”
Even Ms Kamya’s critics admit the platform will win her many votes, particularly in Rubaga Division, the cultural and political centre of the Baganda, who overwhelmingly support the federalist cause.
The Uganda People’s Party secretary General, Mr Chris Opoka, said: “Kamya has high chances in the forthcoming elections. Federalism is embraced by Rubaga residents, so she might be having their support.”
But Ms Sarah Eperu, the FDC spokesperson for women, told Daily Monitor she was not worried about Ms Kamya’s defection to the UFA.
“Many people who followed her to the UFA are now coming back to the FDC. They can see that she has close connections with the NRM,” she said. “They would prefer to fight for federalism from within their own party. The FDC is committed to taking federalism forward for all those who want it – not just the Buganda. Around 65 per cent of the country has demanded it [as reported by the Odoki Constitutional Commission] and why should we ignore that?”
The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) will also provide tough competition for Ms Kamya, with the party’s strength high since Mr Peter Ssematimba wrested control of the constituency from the Democratic Party (DP) to become LC III Chairman for Rubaga North.
Former Rubaga North MP Tom Kayongo, who preceded Ms Kamya, said: “I am coming to reclaim my seat. It was occupied by a stranger who never sleeps in the constituency.”
Mr Kayongo told Daily Monitor that he would focus on developing infrastructure, such as roads. On political reform, he supports the regional tier. “I don’t believe in federalism. The Kabaka is culturally respected and by putting him at the centre of politics, his office could get abused”.
The Minister of State for Microfinance, Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, said: “The NRM is growing stronger and stronger in this constituency. We will fight to win the MP seat in the same way we were successful during the by-elections for the LC III position.”
But Ms Sebugwawo said Mr Ssematimba’s success was unique. “The President and several ministers lent their support for the LC III fight in Rubaga at that time. They really wanted to win the post because it is in the Buganda headquarters and they needed an ally there. But they won’t have those resources in 2011 and they won’t win again.”
DP choosing candidate
DP is currently in the process of selecting their candidate for Rubaga North, for which there are five contenders, including Mr Moses Kasibante, who worked for CBS Radio and Ms Florence Bagunywa, a former Mengo minister.
DP deputy Spokesperson Fred Mesigwa blames the DP defeat in Rubaga in 2006 on indiscipline, where three DP candidates stood against each other. Preliminary elections will this time round determine one candidate who will stand alone for the DP.
Mr Mesigwa said the UFA’s call for federalism is superfluous. “The DP has always fought for federalism. Beti, on the other hand, was first part of the NRM, then she defected to the FDC, and now she has set up the UFA. I think she is confused.”
Ms Kamya retorts that “winners look for a winning way. Where was Besigye? He moved from NRM to FDC as well. You don’t have to be consistent in a party, but in ideology: I have consistently fought against corruption, and for federalism.”
However, Ms Kamya has a long fight ahead of her even if she manages to re-take her seat on a Federalist ticket. NRM deputy spokesman Mr Ofwono Opondo told Daily Monitor, “If she makes federalism an issue in Rubaga, there are still over 300 MPs in Parliament and she is in the minority.”
2006 MP RESULTS
Kamya Beti Olive (FDC) 24,625
Bagunywa Florence (DP) 9,046
Kayongo Tom (NRM) 12,150
Lule Wasswa (INDEP) 823
Sempijja Patrick Kiweesi 1,003
2006 PRESIDENTIAL RESULTS
Yoweri Kaguta 19,503
Besigye Kizza 26,329
Miria Obote Kalule 82
Abed Bwanika 272
John Ssebaana Kizito 1,588
Registered voters 80,834
Valid votes: 47,774
Source: Electoral Commission