In the run up to the 2016 General Election, seven MPs, including three serving Cabinet ministers, announced that they would not be seeking re-election.
The group included Kigulu North MP Edward Balidawa, Makindye West MP Hussein Kyanjo, Rakai Women MP Maria Mutagamba (RIP), Kakuuto MP Mathias Kasamba, Nakaseke Woman MP Rose Namayanja Nsereko, Ms Betty Bigombe [ex-officio], and Kyadondo South MP Issa Kikungwe (RIP).
The argument back then was best captured by Ms Namayanja and Kikungwe, who argued that it was only proper that one passed on the mantle to another person.
“After 15 years, if you do not retire, you are taking your people for granted. People should come, make a contribution and go away. I believe there are others who can make a contribution,” Kikungwe argued back then.
The argument that it was not necessary to serve more than two terms in Parliament had been made before by mostly members in the Opposition and the first to walk the talk was Democratic Party (DP) president Norbert Mao. After serving two terms as Gulu Municipality MP, Mr Mao did not return to contest for the seat in 2011.
As we move into yet another election, there has been very little talk akin to what the seven said five years ago. If anything, even those who have been critical of President Museveni for seeking to extend his stay in office after holding it for nearly 35 years, are now keen on encouraging legislators to stay for longer.
Earlier this month, Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze argued for longevity in Parliament during an appearance on a local TV talk show.
“The more you stay on in Parliament, the more one becomes an asset to the people. We have people like Cecilia Ogwal. If she decides to stand and speak, no one will tell her to sit down,” Ms Nambooze argued.
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, First Deputy Prime Minister Gen Moses Ali, Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi and Aswa County MP Reagan Okumu are some of the long-serving MPs who were nominated this week in a bid to extend their terms.
Whereas Gen Ali’s 25 years as an MP have once been interrupted following defeat in the 2006 elections, Ms Kadaga, Mr Ssekandi and Mr Okumu stand out for having been continuously elected since they first sought election.
Ms Kadaga has been Kamuli MP for six different terms, having been first elected in 1989 following the expansion of the National Resistance Council (NRC) to include non-historical members of the National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A). By next year when the life of the 10th Parliament elapses, she will have been a legislator for an unbroken 32 years.
Ms Kadaga defeated her lone challenger in the party primaries – Ms Deborah Mwesigwa Mugerwa – polling 118,743 votes against Ms Mugerwa’s 7,243.
Ms Mugerwa announced that she would contest as an Independent candidate, a move that had been expected to divide the NRM ballot, but her decision late last week to withdraw from the race in favour of Ms Kadaga now means the NRM vote is intact in a contest that will now see Kadaga challenged by the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party vice president for Eastern Uganda, Ms Salaamu Musumba, and Ms Brenda Nabirye of the National Unity Platform (NUP) party.
Last week, during a meeting of FDC’s National Council, a buoyant Musumba boasted that some of the NRM’s top guns in Kamuli had joined her camp following their defeat in last month’s NRM primaries.
State Minister for Karamoja Affairs Moses Kizige and the State Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Mr Isaac Isanga Musumba, lost the NRM party primaries in their respective constituencies.
The Kamuli District chairperson, Mr Thomas Kategere, was also defeated by the incumbent, Mr Maurice Kibalya, in Bugabula South.
Mr Kizige was beaten in Bugabula North, coming a distant fourth with 3,005 votes. Mr John Teira became the NRM party flag bearer with 17,808 votes, followed by Mr George Mulindwa, who collected 8,009 votes and Ms Flavia Omondi, who polled 4,317 votes.
In Buzaaya County, Mr Isaac Musumba, who is also Ms Salaamu Musumba’s husband, came third with 5,121 votes. The flag was captured by Mr Martin Muzaale, who bagged 36,853 votes, followed by Mr Paul Kintu, who got 7,812 votes.
Mr Muzaale first defeated Mr Musumba during the 2011 General Elections, but he bounced back to win both the party flag and the seat during the 2016 General Election.
“I now have the support of some very strong pillars. Mr Musumba, Mr Kizige, Mr Kategere and many others. They are bitter. We now have one common target,” Ms Musumba told Saturday Monitor.
Camps associated with the two ministers and Mr Kategere attribute their defeats in the NRM party primaries to Ms Kadaga, who they accuse of having meddled in the party primary polls and are now expected to reciprocate the gesture during the general election.
Should Ms Kadaga emerge victorious, she will be extending her tenure as the longest serving MP in Uganda, with the record rising from 32 when the 10th Parliament ends to 37, when the life of the 11th Parliament will most probably end.
Ssekandi, Okumu, Nankabirwa, Bbumba eyeing 30 years
Mr Ssekandi looks set to win back his Bukoto Central seat after he emerged victorious in last month’s NRM party primaries. He bagged 9,580 votes, relegating Mr Fredrick Ddembe Luswata, who got 4,889 votes and Godfrey Sseremba Mayanja, who got 2,377, to second and third places, respectively.
Mr Ssekandi, who has been sailing to questionable victories in the last two general elections, is now likely to have an easier ride following the split of the constituency into two to create Kimanya Kabonero Constituency.
Mr Jude Mbabaali, who has been giving Mr Ssekandi a torrid time in Bukoto Central, has since relocated to Kimanya Kabonero, where he is tussling it out with three-time former presidential candidate Abed Bwanika and Masaka City Mayor Godfrey Kayemba Afaayo.
With the coast looking clearer in Bukoto Central, Mr Ssekandi looks to be in pole position to extend his stay in Parliament to 30 years.
In the same category as Mr Ssekandi is Aswa County MP Reagan Okumu.
Mr Okumu, formerly an investigating officer with the Inspectorate of Government, was first elected MP in 1996 at the age of 27. He has since held onto the constituency and is likely to retain it following reconciliation talks between him and former Gulu Municipality MP Christopher Acire.
Mr Acire had initially declared his intention to take on Mr Okumu for the Aswa seat, but backed down following talks brokered by senior leaders of FDC party in Acholi Sub-region and the party president, Mr Patrick Amuriat Oboi.
In this category is government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa, who was first elected to represent Kiboga women in Parliament in 1996 and Nakaseke County MP, Ms Syda Bbumba. Both have continuously represented their constituencies since they were first elected.
Gen Ali seeks extension to 31 years
In February 2006, Lt Gen Ali, who became a member of the NRC in the 1980s after his Uganda National Rescue Front (UNRF) negotiated a deal with the National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A) and was integrated into the NRA, surprisingly lost his parliamentary seat to Mr Santos Eruaga Mulago, bringing an end to his more than 16 year-tenure as the area MP.
He, however, recaptured his seat in the 2011 elections. He retained it in 2016 and is seeking re-election next year. Should he pull it off, Gen Ali will by the end of the 11th Parliament be marking at least 31 years as a legislator, which will make him the second longest serving MP after Ms Kadaga.
Historicals Targeting 20 years
Besides Ssekandi, Okumu, Nankabirwa and Bbumba, there are also others like Uganda’s Ambassador to China, Dr Crispus Kiyonga, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire and Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, who have served as legislators for quite a while now, despite their tenures suffering interruptions at some points in time, but either returned or are returning to start off from where they stopped.
Gen Jim Muhwezi, a historical member of the NRC, first contested to represent Rujumbura County in Rukungiri District in 1996. He won every subsequent election until 2016, when he was floured by FDC’s Fred Turyamuhweza. That brought an end to his first tenure of more than 15 years as the area MP. With his nomination, Mr Muhwezi is seeking to extend his time in Parliament to 20 years.
Like Gen Muhwezi, Constitutional Affairs minister Otafiire is seeking to restart life as an elected MP and in the process stretch the time he has served as a legislator to 20 years after he was beaten to the Ruhinda North seat by Capt Donozio Kahonda during both the 2015 NRM party primaries and the general election that followed. Should he get re-elected, Gen Otafiire will by the end of the life of the 11th Parliament have been an MP for a period of 20 years.
In Kasese, Dr Kiyonga, who was beaten to the Bukonzo West seat by FDC’s Godfrey Atkins Katusabe, is seeking to bounce back after winning the NRM party primaries and famously declaring that he had returned to chase FDC out of Kasese. The man, who was elected on the Uganda Patriotic Movement’s (UPMs) ticket in the 1980 General Election is seeking to extend his tenure as an elected MP to 20 years.
Targeting beyond 20
At least seven MPs, including two members of Mr Museveni’s Cabinet and four in the Opposition, who have continuously represented their constituencies since they were first elected in 2001, are now seeking to extend their stay in Parliament beyond the 20-year mark.
The group includes Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees minister Hilary Onek, who represents Lamwo County, but shifts to contest for the newly-created Palabek County in the 2021 polls, and Wildlife, Tourism and Antiquities minister Ephraim Kamuntu, who is also the MP for Sheema South.
Others are Budadiri West MP and FDC party secretary general Nathan Nandala Mafabi; Aruu County MP Odonga Otto; Kyankwanzi Woman MP Ann Maria Nankabirwa; and Kawempe North MP Latif Sebaggala, all of whom have represented their constituencies uninterrupted since 2001.
Mr Sebaggala had initially declared intention to run for the Kampala City Lord Mayor seat on NUP party ticket, but has since turned around to declare he will return to contest for the Kawempe North seat, for which NUP had endorsed Mr Muhammad Ssegirinya.
Whereas Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal is also looking to extend her stay in Parliament to beyond the 20-year mark, her tenure entailed a disruption and shift in constituencies.
First elected as MP for Lira Municipality in 1996, Ms Ogwal retained the seat in 2001, but lost it to Mr Jimmy Akena in 2006. She bounced back in 2011 when she relocated to Dokolo and got elected as the Woman MP there. She retained the seat in 2016 and is seeking re-election next year.