Where are Suubi 2011 leaders?

Mr Erias Lukwago

What you need to know:

  • In the run-up to the 2011 General Election, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate Kizza Besigye’s presidential push was buoyed when politicians from Buganda formed a pressure, Suubi  2011 – whose main objective was to advance Buganda’s Kingdom’s interests. With Mathias Mpuuga, one of the group’s members facing a political test for receiving Shs500m as a “service award” following his tenure as Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Monitor’s Derrick Kiyonga traces where Suubi group members are.

Erias Lukwago

In the run-up to the forming of Suubi, Lukwago, then Member of Parliament for Kampala Central, had fallen out with his party, the Democratic Party (DP). As the party’s chief legal advisor, Lukwago had advised against the 2010 DP delegates’ conference that was organised in the eastern city of Mable.  

The party’s leadership didn’t take heed of his counsel and the delegates’ conference midwifed the leadership of Mr Nobert Mao, who is now a minister in President Museveni’s government. After falling out with DP leadership, Lukwago naturally joined the Ssubi group and he ran for Lord Mayor of Kampala in 2011 as an independent with the strong backing of his long-term ally, Dr Besigye.    

Lukwago is now in his third term as the Kampala Lord Mayor and also shifted from DP and joined the FDC.    

“I have not come to FDC as a fortune hunter looking for freebies, groceries, or what in political parlance is known as a meal card… I abhor the culture of meal card politics which is quite pervasive in our party politics. With all due respect to whoever might be offended by my remarks, I always cringe at the sight of a political leader roaming around with a party ticket as an ATM card and such elements shouldn’t be tolerated by any serious political party,” Lukwago said on joining FDC.    

Things have not gone according to plan and he is now leading an FDC splinter group which has its offices on Katonga Road in Kampala. Lukwago has since mooted that the process of this splinter group forming a political party of its own is underway.  

Joseph Mulwanyamuli Ssemwogerere. 
Before he could give Uganda’s murky politics a try, Ssemwogerere had been the Katikkiro (prime minister) of Buganda between 1994 and 2005. 

He made his mark when he was appointed Katikkiro upon the restoration of the kingdoms, but he ran into trouble when – under the spirit of getting a federal system of government in the early 2000s – he led a team from Mengo that negotiated with the central government, led by then prime minister Apolo Nsibambi, and they agreed to form what came to be known as “regional tier”. 

When Ssemwogerere presented this deal to Buganda’s Lukiiko (parliament), he was initially lionised by its members as a great negotiator. 

Within months, the Kabaka had sacked his entire cabinet, including Ssemwogerere and Charles Peter Mayiga, the current Katikkiro, after accusations surfaced that the regional tier was nothing but hot air and that Buganda negotiators had allegedly been compromised by State House.

To date, the regional tier, which gave districts the green light to form regions, has been shelved by the central government despite being accepted by other kingdoms such as Bunyoro, Tooro, and Busoga.  

Until that point, Ssemwogerere was known as a long-term Museveni associate, but once Ssubi (Hope) was formed, he was enthroned as its patron.

As the group’s leader Ssemwogerere articulated Biganda’s interests such as the introduction of a federal system of governance, compensation, and return of the kingdom’s properties as well as an end to the excesses of the current regime like corruption, human rights abuses, and inhibition of freedoms. 

After the 2011 election which saw Museveni sworn as President, Ssemwogerere fizzled away and he later said he retired into farming.

Betty Nambooze
By the time Suubi was formed, Nambooze had served as Mukono North MP for a few months after she defeated Peter Bakaluba Mukasa – who at the time belonged to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), but has since decamped to the National Unity Platform (NUP) – in a tense by-election. 

Joining Ssuubi was a no-brainer for Nambooze since advancing Buganda interests wasn’t new for her since she was part of the Buganda Civic Education Central Committee (CECC), which campaigned aggressively against the 2007 land reforms proposed by government, saying the were an attempt to grab Kabaka’s land.

Government responded in 2008 by arresting Mayiga, then Buganda Kingdom spokesperson, Medard Lubega Sseggona, then the kingdom’s deputy spokesperson, and Nambooze, who headed CECC. 

Mayiga was released without being charged, while Sseggona and Nambooze were charged with sedition after being detained by security agents for several days. The charges were later dropped. Nambooze remained a DP member to the point of becoming the party’s vice president in charge of the Buganda region.

This didn’t go down well with her long-time ally Lukwago who had formed a pressure group dubbed Truth and Justice as the 2016 general election was getting closer. For the 2016 presidential elections, Nambooze endorsed former prime minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, but when Besigye organised a mammoth rally in her constituency she showed up asking to speak to the crowd.    

When the 2021 elections beckoned, Nambooze was among the many DP politicians who left the party and joined NUP under the leadership of musician-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.  Nambooze, 54, is the MP for Mukono Municipality which was carved out of Mukono North. 

Her position on the Mpuuga debacle isn’t clear because sources indicate she didn’t like the idea of the Nyendo-Mukungwe MP being selected as LoP. Nambooze felt that she deserved to lead the Opposition on the account that she was more experienced than Mpuuga.

Even when Mpuuga was dropped last year, Nambooze was passed over in favour of Nakawa West MP, Joel Ssenyonyi, a political novice.   

Muhammed Muwanga Kivumbi.
After failing several times to clinch an elective office, Muhammed Muwanga-Kivumbi’s time came in 2012. As part of the Suubi group, Muwanga-Kivumbi had been defeated by NRM’s Faisal Kikulukunyu, but Muwanga-Kivumbi decided to take the matter to court which annulled Kikulukunyu’s victory on account of bribing voters. 

Muwanga-Kivumbi won the resultant by-election. And he has since become a permanent fixture in Parliament, even when he abandoned Dr Besigye, who at the time he called his mentor.  

Muwanga-Kivumbi, who abandoned DP to join NUP before the 2021 election is the current chairperson of the Buganda Parliamentary Caucus. He recently made it clear that they would oppose government’s plans to relocate Balaalo who have been ejected from northern Uganda, to Buganda. 

“We [Baganda] have been welcoming, but I think this time we aren’t in a position to do so,” Muwanga-Kivumbi said.   

The Butambala County MP wanted to replace Mpuuga as LoP but he was disappointed when Kyagulanyi appointed Ssenyonyi. No wonder, he hasn’t come out to defend Mpuuga, his former ally, in in the face of the onslaught he is facing from the NUP leadership.

Medard Lubega Sseggona

Sseggona made his name as a lawyer working with his long-time business partner Lukwago, but he also became prominent in Buganda politics when he served as the kingdom’s deputy mouthpiece. Just like Nambooze, he was arrested at the peak of the tensions between Buganda Kingdom and the NRM regime, and he decided to join mainstream politics. 

A DP member from his days at Makerere University, in 2010 he had to quit his position in Mengo. He joined his colleagues to form Suubi which enabled him win the Busiro East MP race. 

In 2016, Sseggona backed Mbabazi’s unsuccessful presidential bid, but he was able to retain his parliamentary seat.  

Just like Nambooze, Sseggona joined NUP before the 2021 elections, ensuring that he was part of the red wave that swept Buganda; catapulting many into political leadership.

Following the fallout between Mpuuga and the NUP leadership, Sseggona has openly led the pushback against attempts to demonise the former Buganda Youth MP.

“The matter has been handled recklessly. The manner of handling Mpuuga’s situation is gross and shabby. We take a lot of energy and resources to build leaders. It takes you just one day to destroy a leader. The time will come when you will look for this leader, but you won’t find them like FDC with [Gen] Mugisha Muntu,” Sseggona, 48, said.    

Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda
Before joining politics in 2010, Ssemujju had established himself as one of the leading political journalists in the country. Intending to end President Museveni’s hold on power, Ssemujju joined FDC, but also teamed up with Buganda politicians to form Suubi.

He won the Kyandondo East elections, replacing veteran FDC politician Sam Njuba who passed on in 2013. Ssemujju has since established himself as one of the most vocal legislators.  

In 2016, Kira Municipality, which he now represents, was carved out of Kyadondo East, but it never affected his rise. When many Opposition leaders in Buganda joined NUP, or supported Kyagulanyi’s presidential bid, Ssemujju remained firm. 

“I have no problem with Kyagulanyi, but I didn’t support his candidature because as FDC we had a candidate [Patrick Oboi Amuriat,” Ssemujju said. “I can’t be a hypocrite to not support a candidate from my party just because Kyagulanyi is popular.”  

But following allegations that billions from State House found their way into the FDC campaign machinery of 2021, Ssemujju has come out to say his days in the party are numbered.  

In the Mpuuga-NUP impasse, Ssemujju has offered to be the meditator.  

“I’m going to be pleading for de-escalation. I’m trying to contact honourable Kyagulanyi personally because I have been in touch with Mpuuga,” Ssemujju, 50, said. “My view is that even if people are going to separate they can do it amicably.”

Moses Kasibante
Before venturing into politics, Kasibante had served as a news anchor at Buganda Kingdom-owned Central Broadcasting Services (CBS). In 2006, he had his first shot at elective politics when he was defeated by the NRM’s Ibrahim Kaddunabbi Lubega in the race for the Butambala County seat. 

Kasibante retreated to journalism, but once the 2011 elections beckoned he put his hat into the ring, this time challenging for Rubaga North MP seat. Kasibante had gained more fame as part of the Buganda Kingdom team fighting the land reform and he naturally joined the Suubi group. He won the Rubaga elections twice, as an independent, but he wasn’t lucky in 2021.

In a bid to save his political career, he joined NUP but the ticket was given to Abubaker Kawalya. Having lost the election, in which he for the third time stood as an independent, Kasibante went into agriculture. 

Following the NUP-Mpuuga fight, Kasibante resurfaced, accusing Kyagulanyi of committing an injustice. 

“He [Kyagulanyi] first announced that Mpuuga was guilty of corruption and abuse of office and then later said he was committing him to the NEC [National Executive Committee]. So why do that yet you have pronounced that the person is guilty?” Kasibante asked.