A random visit to Kyadondo weeks ago portrayed the readiness of the constituents ahead of the 2021 elections to rally behind someone who will replace their Member of Parliament, Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, who three years ago received an overwhelming majority of the votes. He left the quadruplet of the then NRM’s William Sitenda Ssebalu, FDC’s Apollo Kantinti, and independents Nkunyingi Muwada and Dr. Sowedi Kayongo Male to share a meagre 20 per cent of the vote.
Kasangati Town Council, which is Kyadondo East’s main centre is littered with campaign posters ,from various political parties, the majority of which depict the red colour that has become synonymous with Bobi Wine’s party, NUP although the same colour is used by the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC).
On that sunny day, a convoy led by a blue Subaru car with the poster of Mr Apollo Kantinti, the FDC aspirant, arrived from the dusty roads of Kiteezi and zoomed towards Kasangati.
So far, the race has attracted over eight candidates, many of whom are Opposition. The candidates include; Ssebalu, Muwadda of NUP, Mr Tony Ssempebwa Independent, Mr Khalid Ssimbwa independent, Ms Patience Nantege, Pius Mujuzzi (NRM), James Serere (DP), Robert Zzinda and Kantinti.
This atmosphere is somewhat similar to that of May 2017 when the musician–cum-politician Kyagulanyi sprung to the scene when the court threw Mr Kantinti out of Parliament where he had been elected nine months before.
Ssebalu, who was defeated during the NRM primaries, has decided to run as an Independent in the coming elections.
This is the same pace that is gathering up ahead of the 2021 general election, which will see Kyagulanyi replaced in the constituency that catapulted him to limelight of national politics.
Kyadondo, which is historically and predominantly Opposition ground, has 53 villages and nine parishes, Wattuba, Wampeewo, Nangabo, Kabubbu, Gayaza, Katadde, Kiteezi, Bulamu, and Masooli.
Apart from 2001 when Ssebalu won the seat, the exchange has always been within the Opposition. In 2006 Sam Kalega Njuba (RIP) of FDC won the election before it went to Mr. Semujju Nganda, currently area MP of Kira Municipality, in 2011 and then Kantinti in 2016.
During one of his campaign trails last week, Kantinti said he wants to paint Kyadondo blue in the upcoming elections.
“When I get four of these parishes in my hands,”Kantinti says, “I will be assured of winning. So far my stronghold is Kabubbu where I am born. Kiteezi and Gayaza have shown tremendous support for me. This gives me an early lead already.”
In the controversial 2016 election, Kantinti won after polling 9,005 votes, followed by Ssebalu with 8,679. Mr Muwada, who ran as an Independent but was FDC leaning, polled 7,560 votes, Stella Njuba Nanyonga 4,122 and Lillian Kamoome Babirye of the Democratic Party (DP) polled 3,449.
Kantinti’s victory had been short-lived after Ssebalu petitioned the court against the Electoral Commission for failing to tally some declaration forms. The court ordered a re-election while Kantinti was slapped with fines.
Kyagulanyi threw himself into the race in a manner that some political analysts have described as, “disorganised the status quo in Kyadondo East and the whole political allignment across the country.
In the 2017 by-election, Kyagulanyi would go ahead to win with a margin of more than 20, 000 after he polled 25,659 votes followed by Ssebalu who managed only 4,556 votes. Mr Kantinti polled 1,832 while Nkunyingi got 575 and Male Kayongo Sowedi managed only 377 votes.
After this election, analysts argued that in all fairness, Kantinti should have been the Opposition candidate but the voters did not think that way at the time.
The unique features during this election cycle included the door-to-door canvassing and a carefully managed digital campaign by volunteers and organisers via Social Media. Many candidates, especially Bobi Wine stepped foot on almost every square metre of the constituency to reach out to the voters.
The problems of Kyadondo East, according to the voters, are numerous but they are yet to find a solution. They range between poor roads which are almost impassable during the rainy season and dusty during the dry spells, and poverty, especially for the people living in the remote places like in Wattuba, Kabubbu and Gayaza.
Some constituents accuse Bobi Wine of abandoning them in the middle of nowhere and has not done much for them despite the fact that he has decided to go and vie for the highest office in the country.
“We trusted Bobi and gave him all the support but what he has done is to run away and begin to fight other battles. It is a good move for him but where does that leave us? We wish him well anyway,” Samuel Lyagoba, a resident of Luteete, says.
Mr. Richard Kimaza, a businessman in Gayaza, says land wrangles, especially from real estate businessmen has become unbearable in most parts of the constituency.
“It is a big problem in the whole country and it will take a dedicated leader to fight it. Many people are losing the land to young professionals who are getting land to build estates and making the people on the land suffer,” Kimaza says.
Other factors, according to Zikusooka Kamoga, a local political analyst, is the “Bobi Wine” factor and religion. Kamoga says that Islam is least felt in the constituency as Catholics and Anglicans dominate the leadership of the constituency.
“As an incumbent, Bobi Wine has a big say on who could become the next MP here. He could have not done much but many people in the constituency will look up to him and will take it seriously. But religion will have a big say,” he says.
According to Mr Crispin Kaheru, a political analyst, the candidate that gets the official blessing from Bobi Wine will most likely poll the highest number of votes. However, he is quick to note that it will be difficult for that candidate to win if there are other splinter candidates from NUP/PP or Opposition.
“The vote will inevitably be divided. The more fragmented the Opposition is, the higher the chances for the ruling party to win,” he says.
The dilemma of the Opposition vote
The question, however, has been on the divided Opposition vote with four NUP-leaning candidates after the party chose to back three-time contestant, Mr Muwadda.
Both Ssimbwa and Ssempebwa, who have on different occasions said they brought Bobi Wine onto the political scene cried foul and insisted on standing as Independents when they were denied party cards.
A fortnight ago, Mr Ssempebwa the current mayor of Kasangati, made clear his intentions to stand, saying he had done a lot for the people of the area.
“I needed Kyagulanyi’s endorsement but he refused and that means I have to go against him. I was on his campaign trail in Kyadondo in 2017 and I expected that he would give me that chance to replace him. I will run anyway with or without his blessing in the election,” Mr Ssempebwa said during an interview for this story.
Ssimbwa on the other hand, who says he has been contributing to the activities of People Power before the pressure group metamorphosed into NUP, says he was not Bobi Wine’s favourite from the start, which forced him to run as an Independent.
Ms Nantege, who is standing for the first time, played a gender manoeuvre ,insisting that Bobi Wine should have preferred a woman like her to replace him.
“No one at NUP called me for either vetting or consultation. I had made my intentions clear but they overlooked me. That means I will run because I am on the ground and I do not send anyone. No one knew Kyagulanyi as a politician but we still gave him our votes, he should have endorsed me because he had set the precedent already,” she says.
What Mr Kaheru refers to as self-inflicted divisions within Opposition as being suicidal has been witnessed in Kyadondo East before and could be the case again with five candidates, including Kantinti, in the race.
“There are many issues I left unsettled in Parliament and the people of Kyadondo East will be my witnesses come next year,” Kantinti notes.
Mr Sitenda Ssebalu
He was born in Wampeewo village in Wakiso District. He studied at Wampewo Primary School and then Kintate Secondary School Makerere University where he graduated with a degree in Biochemistry. He contested for the LC1 seat in his home area- Wampeewo in the early 1990s.
Mr Nkunyinji Muwadda
He was born in Manyangwa village in Kabubbu parish and he went to Kisaasi Primary School, Old Kampala SS for his O-Level and Gombe SS for his A-Level. Muwadda holds a Master in Law from Makerere University and a certificate in private prosecution from Kenya. He has worked as an assistant editor at Uganda Law Reports and High court bulletin. He contested for Kyadondo East MP in 2016 and 2017.
Mr Tony Ssempebwa
The Mayor of Kasangati Town Council, attended Mukono Town College where he dropped out in Senior Three. He held different leadership positions and worked with Spear Motors before enrolling for adult education in early 2000 at Makerere Day and Evening Adult classes. He then proceeded to Ndejje University for a degree in Social Work and Social Administration and a Master in Public Administration.
Mr Khalid Ssimbwa
Mr Ssimbwa went to Ndeeba Primary School then proceeded to Aggrey Memorial School for O-Level and A-Level before attending Mulago Paramedical School for a certificate in Environmental Health Science. He attended Makerere University where he graduated with a degree in International Business. He is the director of Kasangati High School.He also worked with the Uganda Red Cross Society.
Ms Patience Nantege
Mr Ms Nantege, a businesswoman, grew up in Kiteezi and has been dealing in first-hand clothes from Dubai and other countries. This is her maiden entrance into active politics, she is married with children.
Mr Apollo Kantinti
Born in Nsambya Hospital and raised in Kampala, Kantinti hails from Kabubbu. He went to Kitante Primary School, Makerere College for O-Level, Makerere High School for A-Level. He lived in the USA for 10 years where he studied real estate sales and financing and worked in the same field. He returned to Uganda in 2010 and opened up Tintik Investments. He participated in FDC activities with the late Sam Kalega Njuba.