By Our Guest Writer
There is heavy deployment of the police and army across the country especially in the 15 hotspots as NRM party members go to the polls to decide who will be their flag bearers for the scientific 2021 general elections.
There has also been heavy spending of money by the various candidates as they woe voters in the hotly contested NRM primaries with at least two major races in Sembabule district suspended by the Party Chairman , President Yoweri Museveni due to violence and intimidation of voters.
Museveni -the endorsed NRM chairman and the party’s sole presidential candidate has also 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 . Speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga got an endorsement from the Busoga Kingdom Prime Minister Joseph Muvawala who said the region can not afford not to have Kadaga in both local and national politics and that she should retain all her positions. Else where, Judith Nabakooba was predicted to get the NRM flag for the Mityana woman MP and Lydia Wanyoto was also reported to be ahead of rival in Mbale.
The flagged hotspots
Police and the army conducted night patrols and have today morning deployed heavily in the hotspots as voters head to the polling centers where they will vote by lining behind their preferred candidates . The hotspots include Butaleja ,Rakai ,Ssembabule, Kassanda, Kazo, Bundibugyo, Sironko, Sheema, Mbale, Hoima, Koboko, Adjumani, Kashongi, Kampala, Wakiso and Hoima.
In Ssebambule where the voting has been suspended , the incumbent Lwemiya MP Theodore Ssekikuubo was battling State Minister for transport Joyce Kabatsi while President Yoweri Museveni’s relative Godfrey Aine Kaguta who has energized voters is facing off with Shartis Musherure Nayebare, a daughter to foreign affairs Minister Sam Kutesa for the Mawogola North constituency. Voters in Ssebambule are excited that for the first time in 20 years at leas a candidate- Aine Kaguta has stood his ground to challenge the Kutesas for political leadership in the district .
An Interesting profile of the race for Mawogola North shows that Shartsi Musherule, one of the contenders is daughter to Sam Kuteesa and twin sister to the first Son Gen. Muhoozi’s wife Charllote. 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(Kaesh)- 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 . In western Uganda a vote was reported to be going for as much as ug.Shs.300,000 depending on one’s burgaining power and influence in the villages .
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.
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