Why NUP crowds didn’t reflect votes in Hoima

NUP leader Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine campaigns for LCV Candidate Moses Aguuda in Hoima District on September 11, 2023. PHOTO/HANDOUT

What you need to know:

  • Analysts say NUP’s lack of grassroot structures in rural areas and having supporters who are not registered voters cost it the Hoima LC5 seat.

At the heart of Hoima District, a political storm was brewing last week on Monday, a day before the culmination of the Hoima LC5 by-election campaign on September 12.

National Unity Platform (NUP) party’s leader Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu descended upon the district to rally support for NUP’s candidate, Mr Moses Aguuda.

What unfolded was nothing short of spectacular. The city’s streets were transformed into NUP red colours of flags, banners, and the resonating echoes of songs extolling the virtues of their chosen candidate.

The procession of 21 kilometres from Hoima City to Kigorobya, left supporters filling every available space, from the bustling streets to the sidewalks and even the building rooftops.

However, the shocker came last Thursday, the day of voting when Mr Aguuda’s impressive rally attendance failed to translate into votes.

Mr Aguuda finished third out of five candidates with 3,972 votes, while the second-place candidate, Vincent Muhumuza (Ind), garnered 12,020 votes. The NRM candidate, Uthuman Mugisha, emerged victorious with 18,353 votes.

Mr Patrick Musinguzi of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) got 271 votes, and Mr Lenox Mugume, an Independent garnered 179 votes.

Mr Aguuda acknowledged that the massive crowd bolstered his confidence, but also posed disadvantages.

He claimed that his competitors, especially the NRM camp, shortly after seeing his big crowd, started spreading propaganda against him and intimidating voters in response to the overwhelming NUP support.

“On the day of voting, we never had a confrontation with the organisers, but the NUP crowd on Monday created pressure on my competitors, particularly the NRM. Security, after seeing the big crowd too, deployed heavily in the villages the following morning, and I received calls from my supporters who were hesitant to vote,’’ he said.

Mr Aguuda said he faced significant hurdles during the day after Kyagulanyi visit, including the removal of his posters and banners which hampered his visibility.

His crucial second rally last Tuesday, where Kyagulanyi was set to address supporters, was allegedly cancelled after security teams informed Mr Aguuda that the Electoral Commission had booked the venue for a tally centre.

He said despite low voter turnout, he suspected foul play, citing some of his supporters being bribed and others deterred by heavy security deployment.

However, Monitor could not independently verify Mr Aguuda’s claim by press time.

Despite Hoima having 173 polling stations and 94,824 registered voters, only 35,519 voters cast their votes on Election Day, with a significant 59,305 voters abstaining.

A local political analyst in Hoima attributed the disconnect between the crowd and the votes to NUP’s lack of grassroots structures in rural areas.

Mr George Mutugi, a resident of Hoima City, said: “NUP has strong support in urban centre like Hoima City, but in rural villages, the party lacks the necessary structures.’’

Mr Israel Mayanja Kabyanga, an opinion leader from Hoima, highlighted the failure of opposition leadership to register voters.  

He asked NUP leaders to start sensitising their members on voter registration.

Mr Kabyanga also said some of the people in Kyagulanyi’s crowds came from neighbouring districts of Buliisa, Kikuube, Kyakwanzi, and Hoima City, merely to see the popular musician-turned-politician.

2021 election effect
Mr George Mutugi, a resident of Hoima City, said NUP performed poorly in the 2021 General Election, with President Museveni of the NRM defeating NUP’s Kyagulanyi in the presidential poll.

President Museveni of NRM polled 38,431 votes while Mr Kyagulanyi of NUP got 10,973.
Ms Barbra Nabaasa, the ONC’s coordinator for the Tooro region, who campaigned in Hoima, said some people in the crowd were fans of Kyagulanyi the musician, and not necessarily the politician.
She said NUP has supporters who are not voters.

“Yes, while the crowd was undeniably impressive, it didn’t seem to translate into actual votes. It appears that a significant portion of those in attendance were not registered voters in Hoima District.  NUP has a disconnect between supporters and voters,” she said.