What you need to know:
With Jacob Oulanyah’s son—Andrew Ojok Oulanyah—reported to be a front runner in the impending Omoro County by-election, Derrick Kiyonga revisits episodes that show how identity is socially and politically constructed in Ugandan politics. The identity politics seems to be mostly embedded in ideas of blood.
Democratic Party (DP) behemoth Patrick Musisi had been in his second term as the MP for Busiro South when he met his death in May 2005. After grieving Musisi, the DP leadership zeroed in on his son—Joseph Balikuddembe Mutebi—as a suitable replacement. Mr Balikuddembe easily won the by-election before going on to win the seat during the 2006 and 2011 general elections. When the 2016 elections beckoned, Mr Balikuddembe—who had failed to establish himself in Parliament—read between the lines and opted to call his time on politics. To replace him, DP decided to use the same old strategy of making it a family affair. Uganda’s oldest party gave its flag to Mr Balikuddembe’s brother— Stephen Ssekigozi. This flopped spectacularly, with the NRM’s Peter Sematimba prevailing at the ballot.
Usuk County legislator Micheal Oromait was a largely unknown legislator in the 9th Parliament. His death in 2012, however, catapulted his constituency in Katakwi District into the limelight. Oromait’s teenage daughter, Proscovia Alengot, was presented by the NRM as its flag bearer during the by-election. Riding on a sympathy vote, Ms Alengot, soon-to-be 20 then, easily won the by-election. She had just written her A-Level exams and, therefore, had to juggle undergraduate studies with parliamentary work. This proved hard. After an abysmal performance, she decided to stay away from the ballot in 2016.
DP’s Susan Namaganda had not completed her term as Bukomansimbi Woman MP when she met her death in a road accident on Masaka Road in 2015. Her elder sister, Veronica Nanyondo, was presented as the family’s choice for the MP’s political position during Namaganda’s burial. Ms Nanyondo won the by-election and has since patented that position. The only change is that in 2020—like many DP politicians in Buganda—she swapped green for the red hue of the National Unity Platform.
There was a lot of commotion when youthful Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda died at the end of 2012. Although she belonged to the NRM, Nebanda was critical of the ruling party’s policies. Her sudden death birthed many conspiracy theories, including poisoning claims. After her burial, Nebanda’s family made it clear to the NRM that her younger sister—Florence Andiru—was to replace her. Ms Andiru went the extra mile of swearing a deed poll adding Nebanda to her name. She won the by-election but there were no similarities between her and Nebanda. Ms Andiru wasn’t fearless and thus didn’t stamp her authority on Parliament as her sister had done. She consequently didn’t make it back to the House after the 2016 elections.