Mr Joseph Chamberlain, the British Liberal politician, reportedly retorted at some point in time in 1885 that, “In politics, there is no use in looking beyond the next fortnight”, but the people of Kamuli are preferring to ignore what he had to say. Why?
With the next general election a few months away, Ms Salaamu Musumba, Vice Chairperson of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), has made a statement of intent – she is going to challenge Ms Rebecca Kadaga, who is the Deputy Vice President of the ruling NRM.
Ms Kadaga, who is the Speaker of Parliament, has been the Kamuli District Woman Member of Parliament since 1989 when the National Resistance Council (NRC) was expanded to allow non-historical members of the NRM to join the House.
Ms Musumba made the statement of intent last week when she personally picked nomination forms from the party’s headquarters in Najjanankumbi before confirming her intentions to this publication in a telephone interview on Friday.
The announcement has, however, been received with reservation and doubts among a section of the electorates in Kamuli and the rest of Busoga region. The doubters can as well be spared for being so.
Early in March 2015, it emerged that all was not well between Ms Kadaga and Ms Musumba. During a graduation party in Buyende, Ms Kadaga publicly chided Ms Musumba for putting public servants in the district on edge even when they had been instrumental in her 2012 election to the District Chair.
“I know you are my very good friend and sister but there is something I want you to think about tonight. FDC could not even make 10,000 votes. The support that propelled you to where you are now was from NRM. I don’t want you to forget that,” Ms Kadaga said.
That led to speculations that Ms Musumba would hit back by either taking Ms Kadaga on or lining up someone else to do the dirty work for her. After all, it was her who had always backed Ms Prossy Naikoba to battle Kadaga for the 2006 and 2011 polls. Musumba, however, made several public statements in which she backed Kadaga, even going as far as referring to her as the “gem of the region”.
But in a surprise move in November 2015, Ms Musumba sparked off a lot of excitement in the region when she dispatched an emissary to the Kamuli District Returning Officer’s office to pick nomination forms for the same position and followed that up with numerous interviews in the media.
At the time she seemed angry with Ms Kadaga over what she believed was a deliberate effort by the latter to render her politically irrelevant.
“Am I the type that you can wake up one day and declare irrelevant in the politics of Kamuli?” she asked during one of the interviews.
That smacked off some level of seriousness but Ms Musumba later made a turn around and opted to contest for the Kamuli Municipality seat where she was beaten by NRM’s Hajati Watongola. So what is it that has changed since then? Why is she once again expressing interest in a seat that she had given up on and opted to contest elsewhere?
It is, of course, Ms Musumba’s constitutional right to contest any elective post in Kamuli or any other part of the country but it would appear that she was announcing her candidature bent on forcing Ms Kadaga to make a political statement in regard to her future.
“She (Ms Kadaga) told electorates during the elections that this was going to be her last term as Kamuli District Woman MP. I am moving in to ensure that there is no vacuum,” she said.
We all know that “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck”. So whereas Ms Kadaga has not yet issued an official statement regarding her future, a campaign team has been put in place and pieces are being moved around in a manner that suggests that she will be a candidate in next year’s elections, which would suggest that there would be no vacuum for Ms Musumba to fill.
Would she still challenge her for the seat?
Musumba answers in the affirmative. She then points to something akin to a personal fight between her and Ms Kadaga.
“Where have I contested and she has not come out to fight me? Where? So instead of us fighting using proxies let us face off,” Ms Musumba said.
It was not possible to talk to Ms Kadaga for this article as she was said to be out attending a meeting of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the NRM on Friday but one of her mentors, Dr David Kazungu dismissed Ms Musumba’s claim that Kadaga has been fighting her.
“Who worked tirelessly for her to become the LC5 Chairperson in 2012? Do you know how much money was spent on that election? It was considered a betrayal of the NRM when Ms Kadaga made that sacrifice for her. Has she forgotten that?” Dr Kazungu wondered.
Fighting is normal
It is worth noting that real or imaginary protracted fights between the region’s politicians have been a normal thing since 1986. It was, for example, believed that former Vice President Specioza Wandira Kazibwe teamed up with Ms Kadaga to fight Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Affairs Ali Kirunda Kivejinja, who was at the time considered as the undisputed leader of the region. Following Dr Kazibwe’s departure, Ms Kadaga took the mantle and has since emerged as the region’s top cat.
Allegations that Kadaga fights other politicians in Kamuli are not new. In 2010 during the NRM party's chaotic primaries, she was accused of “meddling” in an exercise that claimed the scalps of Bugabula North MP Gerald Menhya, and Ministers Isaac Musumba and Asuman Kiyingi.
Mr Musumba, who was the Minister of Regional Cooperation, had represented Buzaaya County in the Constituent Assembly (CA) before being elected to represent the County in Parliament in 1996, 2001 and 2006, but was defeated by an LC5 Councilor, Mr Martin Muzaale.
Mr Asuman Kiyingi, who first rose to prominence in 2006 when he surprisingly beat Musumba to the Bugabula South seat, addressed rallies and press conferences to protest his defeat at the hands of former Makerere University Guild President, Mr Henry Maurice Kibalya, who was declared the flag bearer with 17,171 votes against Kiyingi’s 16,974 votes.
In 2010, Ms Musumba defended Kadaga of any wrong doing and quickly declared Minister Kiyingi a crybaby.
“How can three men claim that they were defeated because of one woman? She must be a very powerful woman,” she asked back then.
Mr Kiyingi had the last laugh in 2011, when he won the Bugabula South seat as an Independent candidate, but did not enjoy similar luck in 2016 and once again accused Ms Kadaga of having aided his opponent to ride to victory.
Fight for supremacy
One wonders why Ms Kadaga would fight Mr Kiyingi, but the former Minister has for a long time now been accusing Ms Kadaga of being obsessed with emerging as the undisputed leader of Busoga region. That, he says had set her on a collision course with those who either threaten that desire or are too independent minded to bow to her.
Now Ms Musumba is repeating the same allegations, arguing that proof of it is that Ms Kadaga does not have friends or peers from her long years of service in public office.
“She has been in Parliament since 1989, but she has no political friends and colleagues. She has been a Minister before, who are her peers in Cabinet? Who are her colleagues or friends among the LC5 Chairpersons and MPs that she has worked with? She has been the Speaker, but what is her working relationship with the Deputy Speaker?” she asks.
Ms Musumba adds that despite having been in Parliament for 31 years now, Ms Kadaga is “politically stunted” as she has failed to curve out herself a constituency, opting to cling onto a seat that was intended for purposes of affirmative action.
Dr Kazungu, does not address himself to Ms Musumba’s arguments, but warns her against attacking Ms Kadaga.
“If she is contesting let her declare what she intends to do instead of attacking her colleague.
That is how Busoga has been burying itself over the years,” Dr Kazungu said.
It is early days, but this is threatening to be an interesting one.