Mbarara City Woman Member of Parliament seat has attracted eight candidates, among them four are making their first attempt to join the House.
The candidates include Ms Bonnie Kiconco Kashaija, the NRM flag bearer, Ms Agatha Atusasire, (Forum for Democratic Change), Ms Rita Atukwasa Bwahika and Ms Dona Kyomugisha, both Independents.
The seat was created after Mbarara attained a city status on July 1.
Other candidates are Ms Emma Boona, a two-time Mbarara Woman MP, Ms Jolly Kagira, current city councillor representing Biharwe, and Ms Claire Ekiyakunzire, aka Chopper, a radio presenter.
Ms Atukwasa and Ms Kyomugisha are NRM leaning members who rejected the results of the party primaries in September. During the vote counting exercise, Ms Atukwasa, who was poised to be the party flag bearer, was accused of inflating the number of votes at some polling stations. Ms Kiconco petitioned the NRM tribunal and was handed the flag.
Ms Atukwasa rejected the outcome and chose to stand as an Independent. The social development, gender specialist and public policy analyst is campaigning on building a sustainable city and resilient communities; technology, skilling and market access, service delivery, land utilisation and gender and social relations,
“I will focus on supporting art and craft, vocational skills, business and innovations, sports, forming groups for savings and business ventures, and enhancing the private sector and improving access to loans,” Ms Atukwasa says.
She promises to fight gender-based violence, improve maternal health and sensitise the community about HIV/Aids. Ms Atukwasa also wants to support local businesses, promote local food sources, develop and protect public spaces and reduce waste.
She adds that she will improve healthcare if given a chance to represent her people.
“Health facilities must have scanning services; we have to make health centres functional with doctors and theatres,” she says.
Her opponent, Ms Kiconco boasts of her political background.
“From childhood, I have been politically awake and active. I have trained in good governance and development and did a lot of work on promoting good governance and democracy through training and mentoring women leaders in districts. That position (MP) will enable me do more and better for my community and country,” she says.
Ms Kiconco’s brother, Mr Nick Rutahaba, is the FDC candidate for Mbarara City South.
Ms Kiconco says leaders must work in unison to successfully lobby for the constituents and therefore hopes to foster unity. Mbarara City will be represented by three MPs accompanied by councillors and mayors.
“I would want to champion unity of all leaders, the cause for collective bargain; all leaders -MPs, councillors and mayors working together for the people of Mbarara, we must do away with intrigue,” Ms Kiconco says.
Her focus will hinge on job creation and improved livehoods, and stability in families. To achieve these, Ms Kiconco wants to lobby for establishment of industries, support local enterprises and work with religious leaders to address conflicts.
“More industries mean more jobs, especially for youth. Mbarara is very conducive for big investments; there is land, electricity, security, population and good roads. Through collective bargain of leaders, we can attract more industries,” Ms Kiconco says.
She adds that local enterprises such as poultry, weaving, knitting, welding, among others will be supported to thrive.
“Government has already started supporting these projects, I will ensure continued support. There is land at sub-counties/divisions and at churches, we will start with these available resources; it is possible as long as we are working together,” says Ms Kiconco.
At national level, Ms Kiconco wants to lobby for medical insurance to improve people’s health seeking behaviours, and reorganise public transport.
“I have seen medical insurance working well elsewhere, and it’s not necessarily that it must be managed by government,” she says.
Ms Atusasire is hoping to ride on her experience at The Aids Support Organisation (TASO) Mbarara and TUGENDE, a transport business company, to lead the people.
“I have had a chance of working with communities, TASO and Tugende. I have realised there is a lot we can do as young people to change the current situation in Uganda. I have realised politics in Uganda is controlled by a handful of people; a local person in Uganda doesn’t have opportunity for active participation in issues that affect them. They end up settling for less,” says Ms Atusasire.
She adds that health service delivery has stagnated; there are insufficient doctors, expensive services such as CT scan which an ordinary Ugandan can’t afford. She adds that education is very expensive for an average Ugandan and bright students are failing to get a chance to purse secondary and university education.
“Families have broken down majorly because of poverty. Young girls, boys are on the streets because the family which is the foundation of the nation has broken down because of poverty,” Ms Atusasire says.
She intends to tackle these issues through writing project proposals and networking to attract funding from NGOs and friends.
“The problem leaders here have is that their only hope is on government funding, that is why they spend years in leadership but can’t show any project or anything visible they have done to help communities. Government has limited resources and is at times overstretched. Therefore, I will not entirely depend on the government for funding to deliver to my people,” Ms Atusasire says.
She will sensitise the community on mindset change to appreciate hands on skills in tackling unemployment. She will also ensure that every division gets a skilling centre and mobilise community members to start income generating projects and saving initiatives.
“I will also look at starting local health insurance schemes. Yes, government can start it but at the local level, I will also mobilise, it’s affordable and possible but our people are not sensitised and mobilised. They can save little, within their means but this can translate into a bigger future saving for their good health,” she says.
Ms Atusasire adds that joining Opposition is not all about opposing government but supporting what is right.
“That is my principle and not about the party I subscribe to. I cannot support a wrong thing because it from my party or oppose a right thing because it’s from another party. We need each other for development,” she says.
Ms Kyomugisha intends to address health, education and income challenges of the constituents.
“Many young men and women have wrinkles on their faces as a result of economic hardships; they are struggling to survive. I want to create opportunities for acquiring practical skills so that people are able to find meaningful employment,” she says.
She also wants to engage government and NGOs to address the school dropout problem, especially the girl child. Ms Kyomugisha also says she will ensure access to clean water in Biharwe, Nyakayojo and Kakiika areas.
Ms Atukwasa: She has a post-graduate diploma in Gender and Community Development Education, Post Graduate Diploma in Public Policy Analysis and Governance and Diploma in Counselling Psychology. She is the executive director of the Institute for Social Transformation, an organisation dedicated to elevate the voice, power and economic status of women and youth in markets in Uganda.
She is chief executive officer of Uganda Women Parliamentary Association. She is the programme manager at Kamwokya Christian Caring Community. The organisation promotes rights of women, youth, orphans, widows and people in slum and low resource areas living with HIV/Aids.
Ms Kiconco: She has worked as gender officer Luweero District, worked in the directorate of ethics and integrity Office of the President. She is currently the executive director of Centre for Women in Governance, an NGO that mentors and train women leaders and girls.