By Our Guest Writer

The D-day is finally here and tomorrow millions of Ugandans will vote for the NRM flag bearers in the hotly contested party primaries ahead of the scientific 2021 general elections.

President Yoweri Museveni -the endorsed NRM chairman and the party’s sole presidential candidate has directed that all known NRM members/supporters  should be allowed to vote in tomorrow’s polls following complaints that in some villages- in the flagged hotspots -the NRM party voters register had been tampered with in futile efforts to rig the vote.

Now, Museveni is emphatic  that  all NRM party members whether registered or not should be given an opportunity to cast their votes by adding their names on the voters register after verification by the village committees. The exercise of registering voters will go on until the polling day , Museveni stated in a communication to all national NM branch (village) executive committees.

An estimated 2,600 candidates are vying for posts in the NRM mass party with  an estimated 1,600 candidates standing to get the direct Member of Parliament NRM flag, some  200  women contesting for the woman mp flag and an estimated 500 contesting for LCV chairmen positions across the country .

The flagged hotspots

Police has listed 15 places perceived as hotspots in the Friday’s National Resistance Movement- NRM party primaries and these include Ssembabule, Kassanda, Kazo, Bundibugyo, Sironko, Sheema, Mbale, Hoima, Koboko, Adjumani, Kashongi, Kampala, Wakiso and Hoima.

In Ssebambule, the incumbent Lwemiya MP Theodore Ssekikuubo is battling State Minister for transport Joyce Kabatsi while President Yoweri Museveni’s relative Geoffrey Aine is facing off with Shartsi Musherure Nayebare, a daughter to foreign affairs Minister Sam Kutesa for the  Mawogola North constituency.

An Interesting profile of the race for Mawogola North shows that Shartsi Musherure, one of the contenders is daughter to Sam Kuteesa  and twin sister to the first  Son Gen. Muhoozi’s wife Charlotte. Her rival is her father-in-law Sodo Aine Kaguta, younger brother to President Museveni and therefore an uncle to Muhoozi.

In Shema , Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye a veteran politician who has been MP for 20 years and minister for Science technology and Innovation , (MosTI) is in a race of his life- facing off with a political novice but who is filthy rich -Dickson Kateshumbwa aka(Katesh)- who was recently sacked from URA by President Museveni. This particular race is  hotly contested  that police and army have had to storm hotels and lodges in Sheema and  rounded up over 50 “kanyamas” who were ferried from   Kampala by the two camps to allegedly  intimidate voters.

The army and police have now been deployed in all the villages of Sheema to ensure that no violence erupts during and after the elections.

Koboko is another hot one , with the incumbent Evelyn Anite being given a run for her money by another fresh political entrant  Dr. Charles Ayume . Already cases of violence and hooliganism have been reported in Koboko forcing the police to summon the two arch rivals to record statements .

But why the do or die NRM primaries

 Political pundits have told the trusted and topical Ugandaupdatenews.com publication that commercialization of Uganda’s politics where  an MP earns well over Ug.shs.35M a month- candidates are even selling their houses to buy votes and go to parliament . Civil society actors  monitoring the campaign financing in Uganda now believe that for one to be elected an MP they should have spent on average Ug.shs.300M.

In the NRM primaries some candidates are said to be spending well over Ug.shs.500m- meaning that by the time they are done with the general elections next year they would have spent in the upward of a billion shillings .

And here is the math. It is estimated that an MP would have earned at least 2bn official money in salaries and allowances over a five year period when they are in parliament which is a motivating factor for candidates to invest as much as Ug.shs.500m for campaigns  and make a ‘profit’ of ug.shs.1.5bn when they are elected MPs.

“ That’s why candidates will do everything within their means to be elected as MPs. And when one wins the primaries they are at 70% mark to become MPs. And the voters want to have a piece of the cake too -since for some, this is the first and last time they will interact with these politicians. Many don’t return to their electorates once they are elected ,” John Bagonza a political scholar stated .

The same views have since been echoed  by Ugandan scholars- Ramathan Ggoobi and Prof.  Mwambutsya who noted that you cannot have free and fair elections when the majority of the voters are poor and when those who commercialise politics are rewarded with government positions .

Past hotly contested races  

So the question is then posed ;is this the first time families are contesting against each other. The answer is no.  

During the race to the Constituent Assembly (CA) in 1994 Prof. Adonia Tiberondwa contested against Major Amanya Mushega in Bushenyi yet their wives were blood sisters. The CA involved joint campaigns referred to as Joint Candidates Meetings. Tiberondwa was a former UPC minister and Mushega was a serving NRM minister. Although the law prohibited campaigning along party lines, Bushenyi was still strongly UPC and, naturally a contest between the then  NRM values and those of UPC often became heated.

The candidates would haul insults at each other on the campaign platforms to fire up the peasants then withdraw to any of their homes and share  a meal and some pleasantries as the peasants continued with the  bitter rivalry  throughout the night.

Another case is Bunyaruguru. where  Hon. Bart  Katurebe ( now retired Chief justice )   and Hon. Twarebireho contested against each other yet they are first cousins. During elections, Twarebireho lost his mother.  The family eulogy was given   by Bart Katurebe who went ahead to win the election .

In the 1980 elections in Mbale Central Constituency (now Bududa District and part of Manafwa District) two UPC diehards  who had at different times married or at least produced a child with the same woman contested for the same position . One was Abner Nangwale, a British trained chartered engineer and the other was Seth Mungati, an equally British trained chartered surveyor.

Floodgates to many  Independents  

The bitter rivalry in the NRM primaries  will  open the floodgates to many independent candidates since the losers are likely to contest the general elections as independents.  According to political commentators all this will increase the cost of elections in Uganda -even when the 2021 polls are likely to be conducted in a scientific manner to stem the spread of the global -novel- Covid-19 pandemic.




Writer is a media and communications consultant And Advocate of the High Court of Uganda

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