In the just concluded Local Council 5 polls, many different faces beat odds to become the next district bosses. Sunday Monitor traces some of the figures who stand out.
Ezra Gabula: Shoemaker at helm of Iganga District
IGANGA. Mr Ezra Gabula was on Wednesday elected Iganga District chairperson, defeating eleven other contenders.
Shortly after his victory, Mr Gabula, a staunch National Resistance Movement (NRM) party supporter, who garnered 25,259 votes, wondered “who he was” to lead Iganga District, largely due to his stunted physique and rare gait.
Mr Gabula was born in 1976 to Mr Gideon Kubwire and Ms Christine Tikabula, both residents of Nambale Village, Kigulu North in Iganga District.
He attended Buwenge Seventh Day Adventist Primary School, where he completed his Primary Seven and served as head prefect before proceeding to Kaliro High for his O-Level and served as a health prefect before joining Bulangira Hill View in Kibuku for his A-Level.
He later joined Busoga University for a Diploma in Public Administration and later National Leadership Institute (NALI), Kyankwanzi, for a certificate in skills development (shoe making) under the Uganda Private Sector Foundation.
He is married to two wives and they have eight children, with the first born studying Law at Makerere University.
Prior to joining politics, Mr Gabula first served as a youth secretary, Nambale LC1 chairperson, Nambale Sub-county councillor and Iganga District councillor for three terms before becoming Iganga District vice chairperson.
In 2006, he contested for MP Kigulu North, but was defeated by Mr Fred Bwino Kyakulaga. Mr Gabula is one of the founders of The Little People Uganda and the secretary of Mukono Life Care Development Coalition.
According to him, he won because people trust him and his experience in council.
“I plan to create more administrative units, functionalise health centres, revive Busoga University’s lost glory and work on roads among other things,” he said.
By Philip Wafula & Sandra Babirye
Santa Okot is lone MP for PPP
PADER. The Aruu County MP-elect Santa Okot has made a comeback after 15 years out of Parliament.
She last represented the people of Pader District on National Resistance Movement ticket as Woman MP from 2001 and when she contested in 2006 for the same position, she lost.
She has, however, returned in the 11th Parliament representing the people of Aruu County in Pader District on People’s Progressive Party (PPP) ticket.
She is the only MP in the 11th Parliament on PPP ticket. She garnered 9,498 votes against her closest rival, also the incumbent, Ms Lucy Aciro (Independent, who got 8,492.
Ms Okot has a Bachelor Degree in Education. She is also an activist for women and children. She was a peace negotiator between the government and Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
In PPP, Ms Okot is the chairperson for the women’s league representing the northern region.
She is a renowned critic of government. She has been using social media, especially when presidential term limits were lifted, to hold government leaders accountable.
Ms Joyce Lakaraber, a resident of Ogom Sub-county, told Sunday Monitor that they realised that since Ms Okot left Parliament, there has been no tangible services reaching them.
“She was key with her leadership skills when we were still in Internally Displaced Camps and we feel as peace returned in the region, she will do more for us,’’ she said.
“At the moment, we need a leader who will lobby the Ministry of Health and other partners to help the children who are being eaten up by the nodding syndrome in the area,” Ms Lakaraber said.
Mr James Wokorach,32, a resident of Angagura Sub-county, says Ms Okot’s vast experience in leadership is the reason they voted her back to Parliament. “Even when she has not been in Parliament, she kept on the ground and she has been so helpful to the community,’’ he said.
By Cissy Makumbi & Milred Auma
Saka, ANT’s only district chairperson
TEREGO. Mr Wilfred Saka, a Journalist and former seminarian, is the only Opposition flag bearer to emerge winner as LC5 chairperson in the West Nile Sub-region after the rest of the 11 districts were swept by the National Resistance Movement party (NRM). He is the only Alliance for National Tranformation (ANT) party candidate to be elected to lead a district, with his party having failed to send a single member to Parliament.
Mr Saka started his political career in 2006, serving as a district councillor for Uriama Sub-county on FDC ticket. Due to his trust and transparency in leadership, Mr Saka was appointed the chairperson Social Services Committee for Arua District.
In 2016, he then contested as the LC5 chairperson for Arua District, but he didn’t make it. He then joined the non-governmental organisations world where he worked with FinChurch Aid as education programme officer in Yumbe District where he served the South Sudan refugees. When the 2021 election season cropped in, Mr Saka resigned to return to the political game he loves best.
He was then nominated on the ANT ticket for Terego District. He used his skills and experience of being a district councillor for two terms to convince the voters. On the night of January 20, he was declared winner.
During his entire campaigns, Mr Saka focused on social services such as education, health, the appalling state of roads, connection to adequate water and electricity, ensuring equity and fairness in job recruitment, revival of some of the cooperative societies that are now defunct, especially that could help tobacco farmers to those avoid middlemen.
One of the campaign managers, Mr Martin Andua, said: “We discovered that some political actors wanted to make political projects in Terego and not reflecting the general interests of the people.
“The position is pivotal in driving common agenda for the people. So we shall ensure that he would implement the ANT agenda.”
By Felix Warom Okello
28-year-old at helm of Mpigi District
MPIGI. By 1962, when Mpigi became a district, Mr Martin Ssejjemba Ssendege, was not yet born.
But in July last year when National Unity Platform (NUP) party was formed, the 28-year-old started nursing ambitions of becoming the district chairperson.
“At that time (when NUP was formed), I was the party registrar in Mawokota South Constituency and also a youth leader in Buwama Town Council. But the people I was serving asked me to stand as a district chairperson because they had already seen my leadership abilities,” he says.
Mr Ssendege’s dream came true on Wednesday when he trounced five competitors to take the district chairperson seat, the highest office in the district. He garnered 29,177 votes, beating the incumbent and ruling NRM flag bear, Mr Peter Claver Mutuluza, with a difference of 21,003 votes.
Other contenders were Frank Vicky Kawooya (Ind) 1,500 votes, Democratic Party (DP)’s Fred Male 4,176 and Godfrey Ssematimba Kasasa (Ind) 3,850.
Mr Mutuluza, 68, who has been at the helm of the district for two-five–year terms, has since conceded defeat.
Mr Ssendege believes self-confidence played a part in his victory. “I always move with an ‘I CAN’ slogan. Secondly, I connected with a big population in my district that has good ideas and staunch believers in the NUP ideology,” he says.
During his first 100 days in office, Mr Ssendege promises to improve livelihoods of the youth through skills development. “I know I am going to make great strides in addressing people’s concerns during my tenure and I ask my people to be patient and pray for me,” Mr Ssendege says.
Mr Ssendege will run a council which comprises 24 councillors, of which 18 subscribe to the NUP party, four are NRM, one from DP and one Independent.
He also plans to create more job opportunities through promoting sports and entertainment and also create a good working relationship at the district. “I am going to be the link between politicians and the technical wing of the district,” he says.
What awaits Ssendege
The district has a sick healthcare system, especially in the islands of Buyija and Bunjakko and Kituuntu and Kiringette sub-counties. Residents also lack clean and safe water which exposes residents to water-borne diseases such as cholera. The district also has a poor road network .
Currently, Mpigi operates a budget of Shs30b and the outgoing chairperson says they need at least Shs50b to ensure proper service delivery.
Mr Ssendege was born on August 20, 1992, to Mr Ponsiano Ssendege (retired parish chief) and Ms Proscovia Nalubwama , both residents of Nsangwa Village, Bongole Ward in Buwama Town Council.
He attended Uganda Martyrs Primary School Buwama, where he sat his PLE in 2006. He sat his Uganda Certificate of Education at St Balikuddembe Secondary School - Mitala Maria in 2010 and Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education at Caltec Academy, Makerere in 2012 and graduated from Makerere University Kampala in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Geological Engineering.
Mr Ssejjemba is a geologist and at the same time doing farming at his parents’ farm in Nsangwa Village, Mpigi.
By Sadat Mbogo
Comedian at the helm of Jinja City
JINJA. National Unity Platform’s Peter Okocha Kasolo, a member of the Swengere comedy group, is the inaugural mayor of Jinja City. The 40-year-old resident of Buwekula Village, Jinja North Division in Jinja City, is a radio presenter and comedian with ‘Swengere’, a Jinja-based comedy group, where he acts as ‘Baba Kasolo’.
When Mr Kasolo announced his candidature for the Jinja City mayoral seat last year, it was largely dismissed as yet another comedy skit.
This is partly because voters in Jinja had been used to highly-contested mayoral races that pitted Mr Muhammad Baswari Kezaala, now Uganda’s deputy ambassador to India, against Mr Majid Batambuze, who has been the interim mayor.
Also the race attracted candidates perceived as ‘unpopular’ or who hardly bore the cast of political actors who were pivotal in its transformation from municipality into a City.
They include Robert Kanusu (NRM), Dr Frank Nabwiso (FDC), Godfrey Tibenkana (DP), Rose Kalembe (ANT), and Independents Julius Zziwa, Jeff Bidandi, Joseph Bamwite, Joseph Agaba, and Meddie Ntuuyo.
But around 2am on Friday, the Jinja returning officer, Ms Jennifer Kobutungi, declared Mr Kasolo winner with 11,899 votes, defeating his closes rival Dr Nabwiso (10,398).
Immediately after Mr Kasolo’s declaration, the tally centre at Jinja Senior Secondary School erupted into joy by largely NUP supporters.
In his maiden speech, Mr Kasolo said his victory had come amid challenges, including alleged intimidation of his supporters.
“The victory has come home and the city has come to NUP as the first party to lead. I want to thank the EC for standing boldly because there was a lot of intimidation during the process. It was a tag-of-war,” he said.
Shortly after completing his Senior Six at Namasagali College, Mr Kasolo started out as a radio presenter at defunct Kamuli-based Radio Empanga, before joining Bamboo FM, also defunct.
His radio expedition later took him to Baba FM, Busoga One and back to Baba FM where he commands a large following.
Mr Abubaker Kirunda, who interviewed him for his first job at Radio Empanga, described Mr Kasolo as ‘a social and hard-working man who moves with the trend’.
By Philip Wafula
A 75-year-old to run Rakai District
RAKAI. His loss in the ruling NRM primaries last year did not stop Samuel Kaggwa Ssekamwa’s hopes of becoming a district chairperson. He went ahead and got nominated as an Independent candidate for the Rakai District chairperson seat.
In the just concluded LC5 elections, Mr Ssekamwa,75, defeated Mr Godfrey Bajungu, who was the NRM flag bear after scoring 22,518 votes against the latter’s 22, 286 votes. The other five contenders put up a dismal performance.
Shortly after being declared winner by Rakai District returning officer, Ms Sylvia Kyohairwe, Mr Ssekamwa said he would focus on what people want to develop Rakai District.
“Rakai is one of the oldest districts in Uganda, but it is growing at a slow speed. I have observed what has been going on in our district since its inception and I want people to rally behind me to develop it,” he says.
His political career
Mr Ssekamwa joined politics as a councillor representing Lwamaggwa Sub-county at Rakai District Council in 1990 and later vied for the LC5 seat in 1994 and lost to Mr Muwanga Kamagu.
“At that time, it was the councillors choosing the chairperson by lining up behind the candidate. One of the councillors was bribed with Shs200 and he joined the line of my opponent and that is how I lost,” he says.
The same year, Mr Ssekamwa contested for the Constituent Assembly, which mid-wifed the 1995 Uganda Constitution, but lost to late Gabriel Lukwago.
He again contested in 2001 as a Member of Parliament for Kooki Constituency and lost to Capt David Matovu. He later contested as MP in 2016 and lost to Mr Amos Mandela, the current MP for Buyamba Constituency.
In 2019, Mr Ssekamwa contested as the NRM flag bearer for the LC5 district seat and lost to Mr Godfrey Bajungu where he says he was rigged out.
Why he won
Mr Eriab Ssango, who also contested for the district chairperson seat on the National Unity Platform (NUP) ticket, said Mr Ssekamwa has been persistent in Rakai politics, which has made him known to many people.
“He [Mr Ssekamwa] was more popular than many of us and it was very clear that he would win the race,” he says.
Mr Isaac Byamugisha, the newly-elected district councillor for the elderly, says Mr Ssekamwa has served as a head teacher for three decades and many of the current voters were once his students.
“During campaigns, people would reflect on his contribution as a teacher and voted for him,” he says.
Mr Ssekamwa says he won in nine out of the 12 sub-counties during the NRM primaries which gave him confidence that he would perform well in the general election.
“This gave me courage because the only sub-counties which my opponent [Bajungu] won had rigging issues. My supporters persuaded me to stand as Independent which I did,” he says.
Mr Ssekamwa sat for his Primary Leaving Examinations at Kimaanya Primary School in Masaka District in 1959 and later joined Misanvu Secondary School for his O-Level and Masaka Secondary School for his A-Level.
In 1968, he enrolled at Makerere University where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Education and postgraduate Diploma in Education at the same institution in 1972.
Between 1975 and 1978, Mr Ssekamwa returned to Makerere University and studied for a Master’s Degree in Education.
He got a teaching job at Ntare School in Mbarara and later lectured at Makerere University in the Faculty of Education.
From 1983 to 1986, he served as a head teacher at Kabuwoko Secondary School and two years later, he was posted to Kako Secondary School to serve in the same capacity. In 1989, he was posted to Kakoma Secondary School, Rakai as a head teacher and later to Burema Secondary School in Kanungu District where he worked until 2000.
He was also a head teacher of Misanvu Comprehensive Secondary School between 2001 and 2004 and retired after serving as a head teacher at Kimuli Secondary School in Rakai District in 2006.
By Ambrose Musasizi
Journalist to lead Ntungamo District
NTUNGAMO. Mr Sam Mucunguzi Rwakigoba, who started out as a news reporter at Mbarara-based Radio West in 2002 and later advanced to a presenter, was the unlikely successor to the outgoing Ntungamo LC5 chairperson, Mr Denis Singahache.
Mr Mucunguzi (NRM) polled 126,027 votes while his closest rival Gaston Kamugisha (Ind) got 9307. The other candidates in the race were Mr Crispus Matsiko of Forum for Democratic Change and Mr George Karamira of Alliance for National Transformation who got 6,165 and 1,867 votes respectively.
Mr Mucunguzi in the NRM party primary election defeated three people including, Mr Singahache, 76, who is serving a second term as the district chairperson on an NRM ticket. Mr Singahache has been a political leader in the district for more than 40 years.
Mr Mucunguzi has never held any management or political position. As a presenter/talk show host on Radio West for many years, he has been talking about social-political issues in rural communities of Ankole area.
He has been the presenter of Katuhurirane (Let’s hear from each other) and Wamanya (you have known) programmes. This gave him a celebrity status and he decided to ride on it to gamble into politics.
Mr Mucunguzi declared his interest in the LC5 seat in 2017. Mr Singahache had in the same year announced then that he would not be seeking re-election. However, in 2019, Mr Singahance made a u-turn and announced he will be contesting.
Mr Mucunguzi hit the ground and used the radio programmes to talk about key issues in rural villages.
“At the start of 2017, I thought he was not serious. I asked him why he was not going for Ntungamo Municipality MP seat instead, because that is a small area and it is his home. He told me that he was seeing a people-centred leadership vacuum at the district level,” Mr Dickson Baryahabwe, Mr Mucunguzi’s co-worker at Radio west, said in an interview.
Soft spoken, humble and down-to-earth, Mr Mucunguzi has always been passionate about politics. Like the Mbarara City Mayor-elect Robert Mugabe Kakyebezi (also formerly employee of Radio West), Mr Mucunguzi has been a regular patron at bars in Mbarara Town. In these hung outs, he met influential people and made friends who raised part of the resources.
Mr Mucunguzi was born in 1976 at Kabahambi Village, Kikoni Ward Central Division Ntungamo Municipality to Mr John Patrick and Ms Norah Rakigoba.
Education and work
He went to Kayamate Primary School, Muntuyera High School, Kitunga for O-Level and St Lawrence High School for his A-Level. He joined UMCAT School of Journalism and Mass Communication for a diploma in journalism and media studies.
Mr Mucunguzi started journalism work at Radio West in 2002 as a news reporter graduating through ranks to become a senior presenter. He becomes the third chairperson since the district was created in 1993, coming after Mr John Wycliffe Karazarwe (1993-2011) and Mr Singahache (2011-2021).
“We always take leaders as kings; to me it is a leader who is a servant and the led are kings. That will be my relationship with the people I lead. I will prioritise the people and make them my bosses,” he said. He is the third journalist to emerge from Radio West and defeat political giants.
By Alfred Tumushabe & Perez Rumanzi
Muhindi is fourth time lucky in Kasese District
KASESE. Mr Eliphaz Muhindi Bukombi of the NRM party is the Kasese District chairperson. His election took many by surprise after previous attempts since 2006 and failed in the party primaries in Busongora North, the FDC stronghold in the district.
Mr Muhindi was on Thursday declared the winner after he floured the incumbent chairperson, Mr Geoffrey Bigogo (FDC), by polling 91, 064 (50.2 per cent) against 86,408 (47.65 per cent).
What people say…
Mr Sylvia Agaba, a business woman, said Mr Muhindi has been so resilient by participating in several elections because the NRM party was divided which prompted him to contest as an Independent.
“He has worked hard and he convinced the Busongora County North people to try him,” she said.
Mr Rehema Muhundo, an opinion leader said: “I know him as a trustworth man, so we have high hopes. This time, Kasese will have peace and justice through him. He was once the chairperson District service Commission and also worked with Compassion International where served diligently.”
Mr Muhindi’s campaign posters were inscribed “Unity, Transformation, Rehabilitation & Sustainable House Hold Income”.
Mr Muhindi has a Master Degree in Public Health and Bachelor in Social Work and Social Administration. His political and civil experience started as UPM member where he worked as a Secretary for Youth and later NRM senior cadre and mobiliser.
He became a district councillor for Kyabarungira Sub-county and was voted secretary for production committee before he was a lecturer and head of Department of Public Health Bishop Stuart University and Bugema University.
He also worked as the executive director of Rwenzori School of Nursing and Midwifery – Kasese.
He was also a head of the Laity South Rwenzori Diocese for eight years and also worked as a research supervisor at Kagando School of Nursing and Midwifery. He is the founder of Rwenzori School of Nursing and Midwifery in Kasese District.
By Moris Mumbere & Felix Basiime