ANXIETY GRIPS RUSHENYI AS VOTERS REJECT KEY RUKUTANA PROXIES FOR DISTRICT COUNCILOR POSITIONS
By Mulengera Reporters
It seems the bad blood between the Mwesigwa Rukutana and Naome Kabasharira camps in Rushenyi County Ntungamo district won’t be ending soon. Mulengera News investigations indicate that the voters used the Friday 11th September primary elections for LCV and district councilor positions to deepen the fallout between the two political giants. The domineering trend was that voters sought to emphasize their support for change at the MP level by ensuring whoever was associated with Rukutana was rejected in favor of those friendly to Kabasharira. Rukutana has been Rushenyi County MP since 1993 and understandably voters are intolerant towards him and his perceived proxies. Reigning from 1993 to 2020 makes them 27 straight years of being under one MP, something majority are now naturally resenting as being too much.
The overwhelming community desire to overcome such prolonged incumbency explains why the likes of Dan Kiriyo Rweiburingi, previously an FDC flag bearer against Rukutana, had to integrate into the Kabasharira candidature after seeing it as the God-sent opportunity for the long-suffering people of Rushenyi to have a new start. Indeed, Rweiburingi is the man who got fatally wounded in the brain during the Rubaare Sub County fracas of Saturday 5th September resulting into the bloodshed over which Rukutana has since been apprehended, detained and put on criminal trial. Officially, Rukutana, who the State-owned New Vision predicts will lose his Cabinet seat over the Rubaare violence, was charged with seven counts including attempted murder, aggravated robbery, threatening violence, assault, occasioning actual bodily harm and malicious damage to property.
So, driven by desire to erase anything to do with Rukutana-ism in their County, voters last Friday felled a number of contestants they construed to be remnants of Rukutana-ism including the Ntungamo LC5 Chairman Denis Simpson Singahakye who reluctantly accepted the Rukutana advice to seek reelection. He initially planned to bow out after 2021 but on being assured of free airtime on the influential Radio Ankole, owned by Rukutana, he rethought his decision and sought reelection. This gave the anti-Rukutana voters a chance to humiliate him last Friday by overwhelmingly electing Samuel Mucunguzi Rwakigoba, a scribe who practices with Radio West. With Rukutana’s man Singahakye joining their other ally Beatrice Rwakimari (Woman MP) on the train to the political Taiwan, Mucunguzi will carry the NRM flag for the LC5 slot. Mucunguzi polled 68,251 votes against Singahakye’s 33,151! The same race had ex-Ntungamo DSC and also Ruhaama Leaders Forum Chairman Tom Muhoozi (21,964) and Magambo Mpumwire (19,728).
The same anti-Rukutana wave manifested in the election for Councilors representing several Rushenyi Sub Counties at the district. Monica Kutamba, a diehard supporter of Kabasharira was rewarded to represent Ngoma Sub County at the expense Mrs. Phoebe Bagaya who epitomized the interests of the Rukutana camp. That was for the position of Woman Councilor. For the male councilor, Dan Buteera was rejected after voters perceived him as a Rukutana man. Instead they went for Wilberforce Mugyenyi at the expense of both Buteera and Justus Bataringaya. Voters considered Buteera a Rukutana man with a conspicuous role in post-Rukutana arrest protests that were staged at Ntungamo District Headquarters.
In Rugarama Sub County, Rukutana’s man Allan Nkabahita was crudely rejected in favor of Edson Muraza Muhwezi who was openly for Kabasharira. Muhwezi polled 3,623 votes against 3,316 that was given to the Rukutana man. During the lining up for the MP flag bearers, Nkabahita joined the line for Bob Nahabwe Karabaya deliberately to diminish the Kabasharira chances but his mother and wife openly voted for Rukutana. He went for Karabaya in order to escape the voters’ wrath as majority of them were clearly resentful of Rukutana’s prolonged incumbency (27 years under one MP). In contrast, Muhwezi read the voters’ mood rightly and appropriately directed all his family members to rally behind Naome Kabasharira and last Friday was payback time for the voters who rewarded him for his loyalty to Kabasharira whose representation is expected to bring fresh air to the electors who have suffocated under one legislator for nearly 3 decades.
In Rubaare Sub County, the incumbent Woman councilor Peace Kiconco was floored by Shallon Tweheyo who is now the new NRM flag bearer for female councillorship for both Rubaare Sub County and Rubaare Town Council. Kiconco has also been PA to Mwesigwa Rukutana and voters insisted it was time to retire both of them in public interest. For female councilor Rubaare Town Council, the voters rejected the flashy Priscah Tumusiime in favor of Crispus Mwesigwa, a diehard supporter of Naome Kabasharira. Rukutana’s Tumusiime got only 611 votes as Kabasharira’s Mwesigwa cruised to sweet victory with 3,098 votes. The winning difference of 2,487 demonstrated how intolerant voters had grown towards Rukutana-ism. In Rubaare (rural) Sub County, Rukutana’s Ambrose Kyenjoga was uprooted by Kabasharira-fronted John Kabeho who got 4,654 votes. Rukutana’s man simply got 1,849!
In Kayonza Sub County, Kabasharira strong mobilizer Vincent Tugume easily thumped two rivals namely Vincent Rutagonya and Bob Muramu who voters badly rejected perceiving them as synonymous with Rukutana-ism. In Rwahi-Rwentobo Town Council, Abia Sebutinde cruised to victory becoming NRM flag bearer for the Woman Councilor slot. Moses Karuhanga, one of the PWDs councilors in Rubaare Town Council, observes that the way Rushenyi County residents elected for the Councilors only corroborated one fact: namely that Kabasharira is clearly the new legitimate leader for them when it comes to the MP slot.
Councilor Karuhanga also says that the people of Rushenyi County are tired of being under one MP for 27 years and are looking forward to NRM EC Chairman Odoi Tanga verifying everything and appropriately confirming that indeed Kabasharira is their choice from 2021 going forward. Tanga is expected to meet both the Rukutana and Kabasharira camps to resolve the concerns raised in their respective petitions.
Whereas Rukutana wants a recount claiming some of his strong polling stations were omitted, Kabasharira in her petition accuses Ntungamo district NRM Registrar (elections head) Maria Mirembe of bias whereby Rukutana’s final tally was actually inflated. Kabasharira claims massive rigging in villages like Ruyonza I, Kashanda, Rugongi, Nyakasa, Kanyanzira and Rwakibira I in Nyanga and Kagugu parishes where she asserts results were falsified in favor of Rukutana whose actual tally ought to be much less than what he was eventually allocated. She asserts that the declaration forms she transparently obtained from her agents in those villages actually disclose a totally different score from what Rukutana was eventually allocated and proclaimed to have scored. She also wants Tanga to inquire into the circumstances under which Rubaare Sub County registers went missing on Friday prompting the organizers to push the voting to Saturday 5th September.
Even on that Saturday, things didn’t go well as violence erupted leading to the much-publicized fracas relating to the video clip that went viral on social media showing Mwesigwa Rukutana acting physically against those he perceived as standing in his way. Elisam Tumwesigye, a voter from Nyakasa Cell in Nyanga Parish Rubaare Sub County, says they were disenfranchised even on Saturday because registers and other polling materials didn’t arrive up to 5pm. That they saw a one Levi carrying people in trucks to form long queues in favor of the incumbent whose name and right to stay on Levi kept proclaiming. Tumwesigye insists that as part of his intervention, aimed at deescalating things and establishing what exactly happened, Tanga must give adequate attention to the concerns fellow electors have in his Nyakasa and other villages. Meanwhile as Tanga prepares to meet the two sides tomorrow Tuesday, tensions remain very high in Rushenyi and any impudent decision-making regarding that vote could cause things to only escalate.
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