From taxi driver to Masaka Mayor

Thursday January 17 2019

Kayemba is loved for many reasons but most

Kayemba is loved for many reasons but most importantly because he is always available to help the people of Masaka. PHOTO BY BRIAN MUGENYI 


He is jolly, confident and very articulate when he talks. Speaking in a soft tone, he is never in a rush to finish his sentences and when he tells his life story, it is quite clear that he has seen it all, good and bad. We meet at his office at the Masaka Municipal Council premises in Masaka District.

In his office, on his left hangs a black graduation gown and shelves holding numerous neatly arranged books he always refers to whenever the need arises. Meeting Godfrey Kayemba, 48, popularly known as ‘Afaayo’ (loosely translated as the one who cares), you can beyond a shadow of doubt know that he is thorough in his deliberations.

“I have been a taxi driver and previously managed tenders of the transport business at Masaka Municipal Council. Since childhood, I valued hard work and I believe it has eventually paid off,” he says adding that he does not agree to just sitting back but believes in working hard to make Masaka a better place to live.

Kayemba was born on August 15, 1971 at Masaka Regional Referral Hospital and was raised by his parents, Simon Ssuuna Ssempiri and Evelyn Nakawuka in Bwesa village, Kalungu District. During childhood, his mother left Kalungu and went to live in Bugerere, Luweero District, to oversee work at their family property since his father was busy working at Nytil
Company in Jinja District as a sales agent.

Kayemba started his school in Jinja, attending Main Street Primary School, Sala Primary School, and St Henry’s College –Kitovu, before finishing at Masaka Secondary School in 1995.He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and Management at Kyambogo University in 2000.

He also shares that after becoming mayor and realising that he needed more knowledge in certain fields, he went back to Makerere University and attained a certificate in Administrative Law six years ago.

His humble beginning
When he left Masaka Secondary School, Kayemba shares that not all was rosy. He needed immediate full-time employment but it was very hard for him to get one, “All I had was school knowledge yet it was only those with experience that held office jobs even if one had a close relative in a company or an organisation,” he says.

Nonetheless, during that time, white-collar jobs were scanty, especially in Masaka. “However, the taxi business needed a little expertise. As long as you were willing to work, people who needed drivers and those who could ride boda bodas were many. So, I had to give it my all,” shares Kayemba.

Being Lord Mayor
At 40, Kayemba was voted to his current position, which he has occupied since 2011. Kayemba talks with a lot of expertise on issues to do with his role as Masaka Municipality Mayor.
“Before becoming the mayor, I used to adore politics and nursed ambitions of becoming a politician someday. Growing up, I ardently followed historical politicians such as Bill Clinton, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy who had loved politics as students in high school and I knew I had to take the same path. When I achieved the mayoral honour, it was a dream come true for me,” he says.

Kayemba says he lived most of his youthful days as a political activist, researcher and was a regular reader of historical books connected to politics. His love for politics became more evident at Masaka Secondary School, in his A-Level in 1995, “I was an active member in school politics and I was able to serve as the school’s clubs coordinator,” he narrates.

After school, Kayemba was employed at the Masaka Municipality Council as secretary for works. However, it was after becoming the youth councillor during Mayor Tebyasa Matovu’s tenure that he started envisioning himself as the mayor someday.

In 2008, Kayemba contested for Kalungu District Member of Parliament by-elections but lost to Umar Lule Mawiya. But he says, he never lost hope.
After realising that he had a mountain to climb in the political arena, Kayemba kept on pushing for his dreams until in 2011 where he contested for Masaka Municipality mayor’s seat and emerged winner.

“I faced competition, yes, because in politics, you do not expect to win every one’s heart. There were people who supported my opponents William Kalumba, and Hajji Badru Namuyimba but I emerged victorious,” he says. Since then, Kayemba has been focal and resourceful regarding advocating for development in Masaka.

It is during his two-term tenure that Masaka has been able to acquire streetlights in most parts of the town. Other infrastructural developments include refurbishment of schools, roads, and Masaka Regional Referral Hospital. Today, Masaka which was established in the 1900’s, has 350 solar bulbs in town provided under a multi-billion project secured
in 2012 under Uganda Support for Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) programme.

In addition, the Electricity Development Sector Programme, which, was hatched in 2015 under his watch has seen areas such as Katwe- Butego, Bukoyolo, and Kalagala acquire 730 streetlights. These have helped Masaka to alleviate the problem of insecurity.

On the issue of health, Masaka has registered tremendous improvement. “Different health centres within Masaka Municipality have been upgraded including: Kasana Maternity facility, Kitabaazi and Kyabakuza Health Centre,” he says.

In few years’ time, Masaka will also be the host to the Bank of Uganda Currency Centre currently under construction. “We believe it will ignite businesses in the region as well as create more job opportunities with the youths as targeted audience,” he adds.

In line with business, Nyendo Market, which accommodates 2,000 retailers in the area, was refurbished and Shs25b was used to standardise it. Besides that, Masaka Municipality Market which is estimated to cost Shs20b, is under restoration. Altogether, different buildings have been constructed in Masaka to replace old structures although they are still looking for funds to build the Town Hall, which was destroyed in 1987.

Despite the achievement, Kayemba has faced a lot of political interference from some politicians in the area. Masaka is renowned as an Opposition electorate but for Kayemba, working with people of various walks of life regardless of their political affiliations has been his modus operandi. However, many times, it has evoked bickering among his

What others say
Lwasa Emmanuel
I think Masaka has never had a leader in that position of mayor who can beat Kayemba in terms of delivering. He has done exceptional work within and outside Masaka. Kayemba, unlike other leaders, has also connected people from different political parties.

Faizo Sseruwagi
As a youth leader in Kimanya, Kyabakuza Division, I am very grateful to Kayemba and his office. He is always there for us. Whenever there is a need at the division, I talk to him, and he has been focal and key to the formation and development of some youth groups in Masaka.