Tense moments and drama awaits the people of Manafwa District as the incumbent Woman Member of Parliament (MP), Mary Goretti Kitutu battles four new challengers.
Ms Kitutu, the NRM flag bearer who was first elected in 2016 and served as State Minister for Environment, is facing a tough encounter, mainly from her friend turned foe, Ms Rose Mutonyi, the incumbent MP, for Bubulo West County.
Others in the race are Ms Annet Namalwa, the flag bearer for the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Ms Milly Khainza, an Independent and Ms Ann Mungoma, a woman activist and philanthropist, who is also running as an Independent.
Ms Mutonyi, 71, shocked the residents and local leaders in Bugisu Sub-region after she announced her intentions to unseat the minister.
Ms Mutonyi lost at NRM primaries after she polled 18,462 votes and Ms Kitutu, who was declared winner by the district registrar, Mr Johnson Wasike, garnered 46,851 votes.
However, Ms Mutonyi, a teacher by profession, was quick to dismiss the results, saying there was massive rigging and bribery of voters.
“Sacks of money were brought and used to bribe voters in the villages,” Ms Mutonyi says.
Ms Mutonyi, who claims to be an ardent supporter of NRM and President Museveni, was first elected MP for Bubulo West in 2014.
This was after the then MP, Mr Tonny Nsubuga Kipoi, was thrown out of Parliament for failure to attend 15 consecutive parliamentary sittings without notifying the Speaker of Parliament.
Complaints on rigging
While addressing journalists at the district headquarters shortly after being nominated to run as Independent, Ms Mutonyi urged voters not to sell their rights by voting a candidate because of money.
“I appeal to my voters to rally behind me. They should not be taken up by bribes. They should look at performance and ability of a leader to lobby not money,” she said.
Ms Mutonyi and Ms Kitutu fell out in March, 2019, following the disagreement over where to hold the belated celebrations to mark Women’s Day.
Ms Mutonyi backed district leadership led by Mr John Musila, who decided to hold the celebrations in Buwagogo Sub-county, something Ms Kitutu opposed.
The minister with support from the Resident District Commissioner, Mr Ahmed Washaki, had her way and the ceremony was held at Manafwa District on March 30, 2019.
Mr Amos Wabomba, a resident of Manafwa Town Council and an opinion leader, said the parliamentary race will be an ultimate test to the minister’s reign.
“We were of the view that Ms Mutonyi should remain our MP for Bubulo West and she had accepted, according to information I got but, I think, she was angered by the minister’s arrogance and show of supremacy,”Mr Wabomba says.
He added that minister and her agents should not underestimate Ms Mutonyi, saying she is popular and loved by people due to her down-to-earth character traits.
“Ms Mutonyi is a formidable force, which cannot be underestimated. She is loved and she is in people’s hearts and a good lobbyist,” he says.
Political analysts interviewed say the incumbent is popular in greater Bugobero as Ms Mutonyi is in greater Butiru.
However, a section of locals told Daily Monitor that they cannot afford to lose the ministerial post by voting out the incumbent.
Mr Simon Butsatsa, one of the youth mobilisers of Ms Kitutu, however, says the NRM primary results showed how people love and respect the minister.
“The win in the NRM primaries, means the minister has already been re-elected,” Mr Butsatsa says.
Mr Butsatsa says the district has seen tremendous achievements in different sectors, including water and health under the minister’s reign.
“There is extension of gravity pipe water in the rural areas and establishment of irrigation schemes, which have supported farmers to cultivate throughout the year,” he says.
Some of the areas, where the minister has helped to extend water include Butiru, Sisuni, Makenya, Bukusu, Sibanga, Buwangani Town Council and Buwagogo among others.
Mr Micheal Wabomba, the youth chairperson of Weswa Sub-county, says the incumbent has also supported farmers by giving cows, goats, chicken, pigs, seedlings and financial support to Saccos.
“She is a developmental leader, whom we cannot afford to lose now,” he says.
Manafwa District has a total of 10,765 villages with 32 sub-counties, among which 11 are town councils.
It has an estimated voter population of about 86,000 people.
The district has two counties of Bubulo West and newly created Butiru. In the 2016 General Election, Ms Kitutu won with a landslide after she defeated the then incumbent, Ms Sarah Netalisire.
Ms Kitutu was appointed as minister of Energy to replace Ms Irene Muloni, who had served in the same capacity for more than eight years.
Mr Muloni is now a presidential adviser and NRM flagbearer in Bulambuli District.
Mr Paul Wamana, the chairperson of Persons with Disabilities of Bubwaya Ward in Manafwa Town Council, says the incumbent has fanned divisionism and neglected service delivery.
“Even in the NRM primaries, we voted for Mutonyi but surprisingly, the incumbent won, maybe results were concocted at the tally centre,” he says.
Mr Wamana says the incumbent has not done much as alleged by some of her supporters, especially in the areas of improving access to water and electricity.
“We have areas where access to clean water remains a huge challenge but we hope that if Mutonyi is elected, she will lobby and extend water to such areas,” he says.
Ms Janet Nambozo, a resident of Bumwalye Village in Butiru Town Council, says Ms Mutonyi has supported the education and welfare of women.
“She gives scholarships to our children, some of whom after graduating, have been bribed and are now campaigning for her,” she says.
But Ms Kitutu maintains that she has done a lot for her people in the areas of infrastructure and poverty alleviation.
“I lobbied for the tarmacking of Bumbobi-Bubulo-Lwakhakha road, among others. We also have more health centres and several seed secondary schools that have been built,” she said.
Ms Mungoma says the incumbent and Ms Mutonyi can no longer serve as leaders to foster unity.
“I want to work with our people to bring the much desired change that they are yearning for,” she says.
She adds that the district has the poorest road network and healthcare.
Ms Namalwa says the district is still riddled with rampant poverty, poor service delivery and youth unemployment due to poor leadership.
“We need fresh leaders to fight rampant poverty and corruption in our district,” she says.
Ms Khainza says poor access to health services prompted her to join the race.
“Access to health services is still poor and availability of drugs in the facilities is by chance. Our people need a leader, who answers to their needs,” she says.
Winning the election
Some factors that dictate voting outcome in Manafwa District include marriage, tribe and ability to deliver.
“The voters prefer some one who is born there and got married within the district,” Mr Steven Masiga, political analyst, says.
Mr Masiga adds that the district has two tribes, the Bagisu, who constitute the biggest percentage and Itesos, so if a candidates harvests votes of both tribes, wins the elections.
“Ms Kitutu gave iron sheets to all Itesos and she is fluent speaker of Ateso, so she could quickly appeal to them and they are likely to vote her unlike those who only speak to Itesos through translators,” he said .
He says the candidates who deliver on promises quickly attract the support of the local population.
About the candidates
- Ms Mary Goretti Kitutu was born in Manafwa District on September 17, 1962. She is the incumbent MP and also the minister of Energy and Mineral Development minister. Ms Kitutu, the NRM flag bearer, was first elected in 2016 and served as State Minister for Environment until last year.
- Rose Mutonyi Masaba is a teacher and an incumbent MP for Bubulo West. She was born in 1964.
- Annie Mungoma hails from Butiru Town Council, Bubulo West constituency, Manafwa District. She was born in 1979. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Development Studies from Makerere University and she is also the former Miss Curvy CEO.
- Annet Namalwa was born 1994. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Development Studies from Uganda Christianity University.
- Milly Khainza was born in 1994. She holds a Bachelor’s degree of Law from Kampala International University.