By Our Reporters
The latest from Mubende district indicates that things aren’t good for incumbent Woman MP Benna Namugwanya Bugembe (also State Minister for Kampala). A number of factors have combined to condemn her in a politically very uncertain future and thereby emboldening a number of women to begin eyeing her seat. Of all these, a one Hope Grania Nakazibwe has given her hardest time and she is the reason Bugembe nowadays drives to Mubende for women group meetings every weekend. She was previously in comfort zone thinking that being a Minister, nobody would dare challenge her in 2021. Having replaced Faridah Najjuma in 2011, Bugembe has served two terms so far and wants more though she will need divine intervention to get reelected in 2021.
BIG TASK AHEAD
But why would a whole minister come under so much adversity in a rural constituency like Mubende? First of all, Bugembe isn’t a team player, a thing that has caused many local politicians to gang up on her. They accuse her of intrigue and stabbing fellow senior leaders in the back by acquiescing to those wanting to oust them. Those she isn’t on good terms with include Buwekula County MP Maj Joseph Kakooza who became excited when nearby Kakumiro MP Robinah Nabanja petitioned Kiboga RDC regarding the Butologo Sub County residents who were on the verge of losing their land. This happened this very week and voters travelled to Kakumiro calling on Nabanja to help after their MP Bugembe shunned them. In the end, Mubende Deputy RDC Evelyn Tinkamarire called a meeting to resolve the matter and Bugembe was in attendance. On being attacked by angry residents, who are curious as to why their MP is never in a hurry to protect them against land grabbers, Bugembe said she had learnt the hard way months ago when her involvement in the Naava family land saga caused her to be accused of working with Parcis Namuganza to trick the President to release Shs3bn. Dissatisfied with her explanation, residents booed her saying it was an indictment for Nabanja to be the one to come to their rescue. Apart from Kakooza, MPs Gafa Mbwatekamwa (Kasambya) and Patrick Nsamba (Kasanda North) are the other elected leaders not on good terms with her. The other is Mubende Municipality MP Tony Semuli whose supporters say Bugembe used his Togikwatako vote in December 2017 to widen the gap between him and State House and other NRM heavyweights in Kampala. That the Bugembe camp members have been using that Togikwatako vote to portray Semuli as a lukewarm NRM supporter who should be replaced with a more loyal cadre in 2021. Her only strong political ally is Simeo Nsubuga of Kasanda South who some voters have never forgiven for the way he voted during Togikwatako. The primary elections to determine NRM flag bearer for newly created Kasanda district too has got Bugembe more enemies. A group led by Jane Nantongo are up in arms cursing that their lady lost unfairly because Bugembe used her clout as Minister to ensure that 25 year old Nawirah Nalubowa becomes the NRM flag bearer to reciprocate her father Mzee Kavuma’s strong support for the NRM. On this one, Bugembe is accused along with Kasanda interim LC5 Chairman Ziada Kalema to impose modestly experienced Nalubowa on NRM voters. She is also resented for unforgiving character and often using police to coercively sort out those who dare disagree with her.
Related to this belligerent personality is the fact that majority influential scribes operating in Mubende don’t see eye to eye with her. There is a whatsapp forum called “Mubende Political Arena” on which she is also a member. It’s here that local scribes always show their disdain for her while glorifying her latest rival Hope Grania Nakazibwe. Recently a stubborn journalist got arrested on the orders of area DPC for posting stuff that was highly critical of Mubende’s only Minister. He was only released after spending a night in cells merely because he expressed himself in a manner police perceived as hostile to the Minister. This only worked to alienate her further from the very influential scribes. Mubende has a number of vibrant radios namely Theodore Sekikubo’s Point FM, Mubende FM and Heart FM which is the only radio giving her platform. She has a permanent program on Heart fm every Friday evening but that platform is so far proving inadequate to counter the political pressure she is facing. Yet the scribes’ solidarity and support isn’t the only factor working for Nakazibwe. Her mother district councilor Norah Mbabazi (a leading NRM cadre) has always been Bugembe’s chief campaigner but she is now backing her daughter. Nakazibwe’s father is a serving UPDF officer, a thing that has had cowing effect on the Bugembe camp too. It’s an influential family hailing from Kasambya County which is home to Mubende’s largest voting population. With the Kasambya block vote solidly behind her, Nakazibwe is already having significant political capital to begin with. A charity health worker in Kampala, Nakazibwe is an NRM diehard and is ready to floor Bugembe in NRM primaries. She is the reason Bugembe, who doesn’t have much community projects for the voters, is every weekend in Mubende investing an average of Shs1m in the different women groups. Each has over 500 members, a thing that has neutralized the impact her Shs1m contribution would have had. Voters say there are two ways an MP can make them proud. One is being very outspoken in Kampala exposing the ills of government and secondly by materially supporting their causes in the constituency. Kasambya’s Gafa, who months ago partly blamed his decision to quit in 2021 partly on Bugembe’s intrigue, is credited for excelling at both. He was very outspoken and got free publicity for his constituency on Kampala TVs-and is also generous when it comes to philanthropy. He has bought 5 ambulances for the community besides constructing a Nursing Institute in Kasambya in the mere three years he has been MP. In contrast, Bugembe who has done two terms would struggle to show what she has done for the community beyond the Shs1m she gives to women groups (of 500 members) per parish. Being a former DEO, Bugembe owns a school but its located in Mityana, a thing that rivals are using to portray her as indifferent about her own Mubende district. Her camp is also accused of always propping up candidates against senior NRM leaders. The supporters of Mubende LC5 Chairman Amooti Kibuka (who until recently faced Councilor Katsigazi) has cried loudest on this.
Issues to do with land have greatly complicated her relations with Mubende voters who keep asking why she is never in a hurry to condemn land-grabbing by the mighty against the economically vulnerable. Examples are many including Kitumbi were local gold mining artisans say she didn’t help them enough when faced with economic extermination. That her husband is a businessman with interest in all manner of activities has only exposed her to more criticism with many voters seeing her as heavily conflicted between them and the wealthy actors who are always out to deprive the poor. There was also the Kirwanyi land saga involving the famous Naava family. It’s a matter over which residents petitioned Bamugemereire complaining against Namuganza and their own MP. Bamugemereire interrogated both ministers for allegedly confusing the President regarding the Shs4bn payout. Then the last week involvement of Kakumiro MP Robinah Nabanja to stop impending eviction targeting Mubende voters indicated the extent to which voters have lost confidence in their once very popular MP Bugembe. Voters are also unhappy she was conspicuously silent as they battled an investor who was trying to grab part of the Mubende NTC land. Then came the Lusalira hospital land saga in Kibalinga Sub County which area residents vehemently spoke about during our field visit to Mubende as we prepared for this article. There are claims that the area LC officials had connived with a tycoon to grab this hospital land and in return reward some of the Minister’s prominent supporters with some few acres for their silence. For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755.