As the race for the newly created Nyendo-Mukungwe constituency parliamentary seat gains momentum, five aspirants have put up a spirited fight.
They include National Unity Platform’s Mathias Mpuuga, who is the incumbent Masaka Municipality MP, Democratic Party (DP) vice chairperson Fred Mukasa Mbidde, independents Peter Sempa and Michael Ssekabira.
Ms Sarah Kiyimba is also joining the race on the National Resistance Movement (NRM) ticket after trouncing Daniel Ntale Kisekka in the recent party primaries.
Ms Kiyimba polled 8,858 votes against Kisseka’s 2,887votes.But Kisekka insists he will contest as an Independent.
Nyendo-Mukungwe and Kimaanya /Kyabakuza constituencies were created out of Masaka Municipality, which has since been elevated to a city status.
The battle for the seat is expected to be between Mr Mpuuga and Mr Mbidde.
Mpuuga, a former DP stalwart but currently allied to the newly formed NUP, has been representing Masaka Municipality for two terms and still enjoys sizable political support in the area that is largely opposed to NRM, going by the election trend that has seen all divisions in Masaka being led by DP leaning chairpersons.
Although Mbidde enjoys support from some ministers like Haruna Kasolo (Micro Finance), Florence Nakiwala (Youth Affairs) and a big number of DP supporters and other voters in Nyendo/Mukungwe, he is yet to break Mpuuga’s hold on the area.
The Nyendo-Senyange Division chairperson, Mr Mulindwa Nakumusana, says Mpuuga still has an edge over Mbidde.
“Mpuuga is still very popular and always speaks his mind about issues affecting the common man, not only in Masaka, but also at the national level,” he says.
Mpuuga is widely credited for spearheading the Buganda Kingdom poverty alleviation efforts through CBS’s cooperatives groups of PEWOSA(Project to empower women through saving and loan associations ), which oversees the running of village saving and credit groups.
Mr Nakumusana says Mpuuga has also been keen on skilling the youth, citing his establishing of a vocational institute - Datamine Technical Business School, housed within Muto Complex on Kampala Road in Masaka City.
He is also applauded for being vocal in parliamentary debates and he is often captured by TV stations representing the views of his people.
“Mpuuga never supported the changing of the Constitution with regard to presidential age limit, he never betrayed us,” Mr Kassim Mutyaba, a motor vehicle mechanic in Nyendo Ward, says.
However, some local voters accuse Mpuuga of spending more time in Kampala than Masaka City.
But Mr Mpuuga claims his detractors have made all kinds of allegations against him, but he is not shaken.
Currently, the Masaka District DP branch has two factions -one allied to Mpuuga and another to Mbidde, who is also Uganda’s representative to the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala).
John Baptist Ntuuwa, a former Masaka DP youth representative and a member of the Mbidde DP faction, claims Mpuuga is headed for a tougher contest.
“Mpuuga’s popularity is waning given that in the 2016, he won with fewer votes than in 2011.
In an earlier interview, Mpuuga claimed that he would have loved to stand on DP ticket, but the current party leadership hobnobs with NRM government and cannot be trusted any more.
“All the top leaders in DP work for President Museveni and their aim is to fulfill his agenda, which clashes with our aspiration of liberating Uganda,” Mpuuga said.
Mbidde has been meeting various groups in the constituency since last year and is beginning to build a network of political influence.
One of his key supporters, Denis Majwala, who is also chairperson of Katwe-Butego Division, says the new Nyendo-Mukungwe constituency needs a new legislator to push it to greater heights.
However, many Mbidde’s critics accuse him of being an agent of the ruling NRM, who is set to disorganise the Opposition. They have never forgotten President Museveni’ s personal description of Mbidde as being “good DP” as he seconded him to join the Eala.
“It is the reason that he [Mbidde] is now trying hard to dislodge Mpuuga, who is a committed Opposition legislator,” Sulaiman Muwanga, a DP supporter, claims.
But Mr Majwala says Mpuuga did exactly what Mbidde is doing this time round.
“He [Mpuuga] dislodged a DP stalwart John Baptist Kawanga from Parliament in 2011. Was Mpuuga a mole then and has now turned into a staunch Opposition politician? ” he asked
Mbidde, however denies working for NRM interests.
He says he chose to contest for Nyendo-Mukungwe Municipality seat because it is where most of his businesses including Elsie Hotel, a beach at Nabugabo, on the shores of Lake Victoria are situated.
“Masaka City is located along water bodies and among the many amendments I am looking up to, is the National Environment Management Act which in effect will introduce shift in qualifications of officials of the authority,” he says.
He adds that the incumbent leadership of Masaka is presiding over a city where roads are dotted with potholes, there is low standards of living and low incomes among its residents.
The big divide within DP in Masaka could easily affect both Mbidde and Mpuuga during campaigns, but it is very clear that one of them will definitely take the seat.
“Apart from Mpuuga and Mbidde, others are relatively new to Masaka political scene,” Mr Samuel Ssebwato, an opinion leader in Masaka City, says.
But Mr Sempa, a teacher, says Mpuuga and Mbidde have played their part in national politics and that it is time to give a chance to fresh blood to take the mantle.
“The current leaders have not used their positions to lobby for the people of Masaka City. It is our time, the youth, to raise up and participate in active politics,” the independent DP- leaning aspirant says.
He says his field of education has enabled him to make friends who will help him to develop the new constituency and Masaka City as a whole.
Ms Kiyimba, a daughter of Ms Sarah Kiyimba, the proprietor of Masaka’s Brovad Hotel, says despite being new in politics, she has a good plans to turn around the new constituency.
“All the leaders we have had in Masaka before, their preoccupation has been criticising government programmes which has led our area to lag behind, ” Ms Kiyimba says.
She adds: “Other new cities like Mbarara and Jinja have industries and well developed infrastructures but Masaka is in shambles because our leaders have not been prioritising development.”
The Opposition, particularly DP has for over three decades been in the control of Masaka politics until they started losing key constituencies such as Masaka Municipality in 1996, Bukoto East in 2016 and the district Woman MP seat in 2006 and 2011 respectively.
This was attributed to internal party wrangles.
Although the district Woman MP seat was reclaimed by DP in 2016 the internal party divisions may deny them a win in the forth coming general elections.
During the 2016 General Election, President Museveni warned the electorates in Masaka area against voting DP candidates, claiming they had retarded development in the sub-region but residents voted otherwise.
In the 2016 election, Mpuuga garnered 17,319 votes against his rival Herman Ssentongo’s (NRM) 14,586 votes.
Mpuuga won with 15,103 votes in the 2011 election against John Baptist Kawanga’s, 3,382, NRM’s third time contender Francis Xavier Kizza Mujobe scored 5,537, and independents; Suzan Nakawuki got 2,698 votes , Godfrey Kawooya (2,696) and Peter Muteesasira (86) .