13 jostle in crowded Rubaga South MP race

Tuesday October 27 2020
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Mr Kato Lubwama, the incumbent Member of Parliament for Rubaga South arrested during a protest. Photo | Abubaker Lubowa

By Derrick Kiyonga

Not until 2006, Uganda’s presidential and parliamentary elections were carried out separately, with the presidential polls coming first. 

So in 1996 when the Democratic Party’s (DP) Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere,  who had formed an alliance of convenience with the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) lost his second presidential bid to President Museveni, citing electoral fraud, both opposition parties ordered their members to boycott the subsequent parliamentary elections. Some members of both parties adhered to the boycott, while others didn’t, as expected.
  
Damiano Lubega, who had represented Lubaga South in the Constituent Assembly (CA), which midwifed the current constitution, one of the DP members who obeyed the orders not to stand. But as the old adage goes: Nature abhors a vacuum, so it was with Mr Lubega’s decision not to stand playing right into the hands of John Ken Lukyamuzi, an environmentalist, who would soon unbridle his brand of politics in which he fused strong debating skills with comedy and he belonged to one of the smallest parties- the Conservative Party- shortened as CP.  
  
Now 24 years after Mr Lubega’s famous decision, DP has tried and failed to recapture this seat and the next year’s elections the party has hinged its hopes on Eugenia Nassolo, an entrepreneur who has enlisted support from the influential Catholic Church and Buganda Kingdom.   

DP, on purely sentimental grounds, considers Lubaga South its spiritual home. Both Rubaga Cathedral, the headquarters of the Catholic Church, and Kabaka’s main palace, are found in Rubaga South. The home of Benedicto Kiwanuka, one of the founder members of the party and Uganda’s first Prime Minister of Uganda, who was kidnapped by Idi Amin functionaries – never to be seen again, is found in the constituency and also the home of Ssemogerere, who is revered, is found in Rubaga South. 

“This was where DP was found,” Ms Nassolo said. “It should be DP members to represent this area because we understand it more than other parties.”    
   
If Ms Nassolo gets her seat in the House, she will have to beat 12 male candidates, in a race that will most likely be one of the closest of all parliamentary races.   
“Rubaga South last got proper representation during the Damiano Lubega times. We need such representation again, “Ms Nassolo said. 
  
First, this is a veiled dig at Mr Lukyamuzi, who for dramatic effect took on the moniker, Ken the Man.  Lukyamuzi represented Rubaga South from 1996 and 2005 when Justice Faith Mwondah, the then government ombudsman, controversially threw him out of the House before completion of his second term and subsequently blocked him from contesting in the 2006 elections.  Justice Mwondah, who is now a Supreme Court judge, buttressed her decision on the fact that Mr Lukyamuzi had rebuffed to declare his wealth as verbalised by the Leadership Code Act, 2002. 

This sparked off a legal skirmish that saw Mr Lukyamuzi, who has always inched for a fight, challenged Justice Mwondah’s decision in the Constitutional Court where he lost but later won when he took the battle to the Supreme Court, the highest in the land.  

In the end, five years after his ouster from Parliament, Mr Lukyamuzi, did indeed, win. Justice Jotham Tumwesigye led six other Supreme Court judge in ruling that he was unconstitutionally removed from his seat and he ordered that Mr Lukyamuzi be paid all the emoluments he should have earned as a Member of Parliament from the date he was “unlawfully´ removed from his seat until the expiry of his tenure in the 7th Parliament as prescribed by Articles 77(3), 96 and 289 of the Constitution.  

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“The Clerk to Parliament should calculate the amount payable on the basis of the rules of. Parliament which was in force by the time he was removed from the 7th Parliament. It is ordered that the amount so established be lodged in the registry and that amount becomes the decree of the Court,” Justice Tumwesigye, who has since retired, ruled.  

The years he battled the IGG in courts, didn’t in any way imperil Mr Lukyamuzi’s control over this sprawling constituency which has eight parishes and 72 villages as he continued to tighten his grip further. In the 2006 elections, Lukyamuzi dispatched his daughter Suzan Nampijja, who at the time was aged 31, touting her as a capable substitute.  Since he likes calling himself “The man”, Lukyamuzi during various rallies, told voters that his daughter was “Susan The Woman.” He also called her ‘Dangerous Substitute’.  

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Ms Eugenia Nassolo - DP

Ms Nampijja, indeed, won the election but once Mr Lukyamuzi secured his court victory, his daughter, despite earlier hesitation, didn’t seek another term; giving way for his father to contest again on the CP ticket. 

Mr. Lukyamuzi who has positioned himself as an ally Opposition behemoth Dr Kiiza Besigye yet again, asserted his supremacy on Rubaga South politics, by cruising to victory. 

Yet by Nassolo stressing that Rubaga South hasn’t been competently represented since Mr Lubega, another person who is indirectly being ridiculed is Paul Kato Lubwama - an actor- turned- politician - who in 2016 wrestled the constituency away from the firm grip of  Lukyamuzi.
  
To win the election, Mr Lubwama, who is an Independent, unveiled his own brand of politics - a concoction of drama, cynicism and bluntness - which apparently appealed to voters who bought into his eccentric ways on grounds that he is more forthright than politicians who normally promise them heaven on earth but to deliver nothing.    

While conventional politicians normally promise to lobby central government to improve infrastructure, social services and also get jobs of the unemployed youths, in their respective constituencies, Mr Lubwama bluntly told voters not to expect much from him since his only aim of going to Parliament is to pocket the fatty salary and other privileges that come along with being an MP. 

“Munnonde nange ngende ndyeko,” was Mr Lubwama’s catchword during campaigns, which is loosely translated as “Vote me such that I can also eat.” In voting for Lubwama, who once claimed to be a member of DP, went for the exact opposite of Mr Lukyamuzi. 

Whereas Mr Lukyamuzi’s with a tinge of drama cherished political debate and engaging in activism and demonstrations, more so those related to environmental protection, Mr Lubwama, on the other hand, detested all of that and views his relationship with voters as transactional.   

The reward of voters voting for him, Mr Lubwama said, is for him to give them a chunk of salary and other money he might get from government officials including, President Museveni, who he routinely accused of being selfish.  

“Salim Saleh hasn’t given me money yet but if he wants to give me money, I will chew it. He hasn’t given me a coin, and I am looking for him to give me [money] if he can,” Mr. Lubwama told The Observer newspaper in September of 2016, in reference to Museveni’s influential brother Caleb Akandwanaho.  

Once MPs were sworn for this term, once again, one of the sticking issues ,was which kind of cars should the taxer pay for the MPs who had increased in numbers. To break the impasse, Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, the Kira Municipality MP, who doubles as the Opposition chief whip, proposed that MPs should be given a loan of Shs200m but Mr Lubwama derided this proposal saying he preferred taxpayers directly buying MPs car worth the same amount.  

When Parliament came under fire for being extravagant yet the country is facing economic dire straits, Mr Lubwama’s response was swift: “I didn’t come here to suffer.” 
    
“I spoke about [a reality]. You cannot have a Member of Parliament driving a car of Shs20m; respect MPs. The problem with Ugandans [is], they don’t want to hear the truth but the [cars for MPs] are provided for in the [government’s standing policy]. Don’t blame me, you blame the framers of the Constitution who allocated emoluments to MPs,” Lubwama explained why an MP deserves gas-guzzlers.  

As Mr Lubwama was agitating for brand new cars, Habib Buwembo, a youth winger in the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), announced his arrival on the national scene when he initiated court proceedings against Lubwama.  

A resident of Rubaga South, Buwembo, though he was out of time having not filed his petition within the 30-day period prescribed under Section 60 (3) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005 (as amended) stipulated to challenge Parliament, he asked the High Court’s Civil Division to treat his case as a special one and allow him to challenge Mr Lubwama’s elections on grounds that he had no academic papers.  
The crux of Buwembo’s case was that the results Mr Lubwama obtained at O-Level were not satisfactory for him to be awarded the certificate.

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At O-Level, according to Uneb, Lubwama obtained F9 in Mathematics, English, Chemistry and Physics. He also got Passes in History and Commerce and credits in Political Education, Geography and Christian Religious Education. 

According to Uneb, Lubwama earned gGade 7. Only Division One to Four candidates qualify to get an O-Level certificate and can therefore proceed to A-Level or do other courses. Having been presented with sufficient evidence, prima facie, poking holes in Mr Lubwama’s academic papers, Justice Margaret Oguli- Oumo, who has since retired, ruled that she has no option but to allow Mr Buwembo file his petition “out of time.” Lubwama reacted by appealing this ruling but to date, the Court of Appeal, for myriad reasons, has never resolved the case. 

Mr Buwembo, standing on the FDC ticket, has joined the legion of candidates such as Nassolo and Lukyamuzi, who want to oust Mr Lubwama, who has in defiance promised to obliterate his rivals at the polls come February next year.   
Buwembo has hinged his campaign on what he terms as “accountability” and “social justice” to win over the 120,000 registered voters of this constituency found between Entebbe Road and Masaka Road.   

“When you look at the amount of taxes being paid by people of Rubaga South, over Shs89b, why can’t they construct our drainage system?  We have lost over six people just this year alone because of Nalukolongo channel which floods every time it rains. These are things that an MP should be looking at,” Buwembo, who strongly believes in activism, explained.    

Besides, Nassolo, the other early pacesetter in this race is Aloysius Mukasa, who secured the National Unity Platform (NUP) ticket after edging out Samuel Walter Lubega Mukaaku, who shockingly nominated for the same constituency on the Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket.  

During the NUP vetting process, Mr Mukasa, who hates media scrutiny, was accused of doling out money to the NUP leadership to secure the ticket.  Besides his bottomless pockets, Mr Mukasa is counting on the traction that has come with NUP’s principal Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, alias Bobi Wine, to lead him over the line.  
Ms Nassolo, on the other hand, feels her message of improving livelihoods of the youth and women will be enough to shrug off competition from the men in the race. 

“Going to Parliament shouldn’t be all about speaking.People need solutions. Young people need jobs and my track record here in creating small scale industries is incomparable. I have been involved in recycling plastics which creates jobs,” Nassolo, who insists that she is a supporter of Kyagulanyi’s presidential bid in spite of the fact that she is DP member, explained. 

“Going to Parliament will give me a bigger platform to advocate and lobby for the people of Lubaga South.”      
The other candidates in the race are Denis Mbidde Ssebugwawo, Mike Oscar Kayemba, Siraje Kifamba  Nsambu, Derrick Lufunya, Jamir Ssenoga Mpiima  Denis Kiyingi who are all contesting as Independents and  Charles Kenneth Male of the ruling NRM.   

Spiritual home

Home advantage 
DP, on purely sentimental grounds, considers Lubaga South its spiritual home. Both Rubaga Cathedral, the headquarters of the Catholic Church, and Kabaka’s main palace, are found in Rubaga South. The home of Benedicto Kiwanuka, one of the founder members of the party and Uganda’s first Prime Minister of Uganda, who was kidnapped by Idi Amin functionaries – never to be seen again-, is found in the constituency and also the home of Ssemogerere who is revered is found in Rubaga South. 

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