The race for Mbale City mayoral race has attracted nine candidates, including the incumbent, Mr Zandya Mutwalibi Mafabi, who is contesting as an Independent.
Mr Mafabi contested in the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party primaries but lost to Mr Cassim Namugali Wamatambu, a former banker with KCB Bank and businessman.
Among the candidates eyeing the seat include the NRM flag bearer, Mr Vincent Magombe, who is also a businessman. He contested for the Mbale District chairperson seat in 2016 but lost to Mr Bernard Mujasi.
Others are Mr Abdu Magoola, an Independent and a businessman, Mr William Massai, also an Independent and former LC5 councillor, Namasaba Sub-county. Mr Harshim Mwenyi (Independent), a former immigration officer and a businessman, Pastor Godfrey Wanyama (Independent), Mr Abbas Wataka, the National Unity Platform (NUP) party flag bearer, and Mr Kasim Wodero (Independent), a lawyer, are also eyeing the seat.
Mr Akim Watenyeri, an opinion leader, said Mbale needs a credible person to offer better leadership.
“We need a person who will not engage in corruption so that Mbale becomes one of the best cities,” he said.
Mr Watenyeri says Mbale City has a wide tax-base but the collection is just peanuts due to rampant corruption.
“You will find out that some people responsible for the collection of taxes get richer in a short period of time,” he said.
Political analysts predict that Mr Namugali has higher chances of taking the seat.
“Mr Namugali may take the seat because he is looked at as a credible person both by Opposition and NRM supporters,” Mr Andrew Wasike, one of the political analysts, said.
Mr Zandya, who was first elected the mayor for Mbale Municipality in 2011, however, says the people will vote for him because he was at the forefront in fighting for the city status.
“Among the things I have lobbied for is the construction of roads and also lobbying for city status,” he said.
Mr Zandya said if re-elected, he will put up measures to fight corruption and increase revenue collection.
Mr Namugali said the people in Mbale City are yearning for service delivery. “This city needs a new beginning and leadership with capabilities to restore its lost glory,” he said.
He says there is massive corruption and fraud in the city.
“How can Mbale City fail to collect at least a billion shillings of revenue each financial year? This tells you of how much money is being swindled ,” he said.
But Mr Mwenyi attributed the poor garbage collection and corruption to lack of a focused leadership.
“I had to resign from my job because I realised my home city needs my experience,” he said.
Mr Magombe said the leadership of the city needs to be overhauled.
“Mbale needs someone who can unlock its potential and that is me,’’ he said. He said he will use his expertise as an engineer to build good roads for the city.
“The drainage in Mbale is pathetic. I want to improve the infrastructure and sanitation,” he said.
Mr Magoola said: “The roads are in bad shape. They need maintenance but the current leadership is corrupt. I want to clean up the whole system.”
Mr Wodero said he wants to restore Mbale as a tourist hub, its cleanliness and orderliness in physical planning.
Some of the issues the locals want the elected leader to address include land grabbing, improved healthcare and transport network, among others.
“We want a leader who will also tackle the challenge of poor drainage and corruption,” Mr Ramathan Wamboya, a resident of Makudui Village, said.
Mr Wanyama said Mbale City needs focused leadership,. “I already have a plan to build a garbage recycling plant to produce organic fertilisers and also burn plastics to produce power,” he said. He also plans to help low income earners with low cost housing, especially in the slums of Namatala and Kiteso.