FOCUS ON JINJA BY-ELECTION: 10 HURDLES MWIRU & IGEME MUST OVERCOME TO WIN
By Wasswa Balunywa Jr
The D-day for the Jinja East by-elections is Thursday 15th March and in the race are seven contestants namely FDC’s Paul Mwiru, NRM’s Igeme Nabeta and PPP’s Paul Mugaya. Others are independents Francis Wakabi, Faisal Mayemba, Richard Nyanzi and Monica Christine Abuze. Whereas Mayemba has been Igeme’s PA for the last 10 years and now says it’s his time to emerge from the shadow, Abuze and Nyanzi are FDC-leaning independents who came in the race to protest to Mwiru’s leadership style.
TWO HORSE RACE; Notwithstanding the noise being made mostly by Abuze, the fact remains that the race is mainly between Mwiru and Igeme each of whom must overcome a number of obstacles and hurdles to carry the day:
Critics say that because of the political problems he has endured since 2012 when Mwiru first removed him from Parliament for inadequate academic qualifications, the NRM candidate is emotionally unprepared. “Since the 2012 debacle, his political life has never been the same. He became politically much traumatized and has never recovered and remains emotionally very broken,” said an NRM insider close to Igeme. Besides Jinja West MP the wealthy Moses Grace Balyeku, the ministerial material who is believed to be uncomfortable having other serious bulls emerge in the NRM Jinja district kraal, Igeme faces family problems whereby as heir to his late father’s estate, his leadership and transparency continues to be disputed by one of his brothers Moses Kyemba. Igeme’s wealthy father left 34 orphans and a fleet of widows. Accusing Igeme of fraud and forgery of their late father’s signature to favor himself in sharing the estate, Kyemba reported a criminal case against Igeme in the Jinja Magistrates Court. Kyemba accuses Igeme of being fraudulent and has been addressing voters on Mwiru’s rallies telling them never to trust Igeme. “If he can treat his siblings so fraudulently like that, how about you mere voters?” he keeps telling Mwiru’s supporters. Kyemba may be dismissed as insignificant but his utterances weaken rather than strengthen Igeme.
The NRM candidate also faces the Balyeku factor. To become NRM Jinja district chairman, Igeme humiliatingly defeated then incumbent Balyeku with 242 votes against 197! Balyeku, who had invested heavily, left Kakindu stadium that September 2015 evening emotionally very injured. Using all sorts of money and his own Baba FM, Balyeku accused Igeme of being fronted by powerful political mafias in the NRM who had always been out to undermine him politically. Not one to go down without a fight, Balyeku petitioned NRM EC challenging Igeme’s election but his petition was rejected as not strong enough. Even when Balyeku has gone out of his way campaigning amongst Boda riders and availing his vast media network (comprising of Baba fm & TV4) to market Igeme, suspicion among Igeme’s supporters remains. They doubt that the flamboyant Jinja West MP, who prefers being the only bull standing in the NRM kraal in Jinja district, can genuinely support the Igeme bid. It’s not hard to understand why such supporters remain skeptical.
They consider that the enemty between Igeme and Balyeku is deeply entrenched to the extent that Igeme’s vice for the NRM Jinja district Majid Dhikusooka is also considered lukewarm in his support for Igeme because of being a close Balyeku ally. Majid, who currently operates at Balyeku’s DAXI hotel, is understood to be hanging in there to scheme for the campaign money expected in the coming days as Museveni prepares to travel to Jinja where he will camp for three days (10th-13th March). Even after Museveni publicly reconciled Igeme and Balyeku and tasked the latter to oversee the NRM campaign, supporters didn’t trust Balyeku making a U-turn on Igeme. That is why they chose Osman Ahamed Noor, a Ugandan businessman of Somali origin, to head Igeme campaign. Museveni’s 8th February meeting was at Jinja Civil Service College and it was meant to get party’s disgruntled cadres back to the fold. It was while here that Museveni was told how Igeme would never comfortably be MP as long as Balyeku lived and remained politically interested in remaining the only bull in the area NRM kraal. He signaled the two to come up and embrace each other before him after they insisted there was nothing between them.
KASULE LUMUMBA ROLE:
The involvement of NRM SG Kasule Lumumba is understood to be an additional complicating factor regarding any possible relationship between Balyeku and Igeme. Lumumba is active rival of Balyeku. She faults him for closely working with her foe Rebecca Kadaga who is also understood not to be very enthusiastic about Igeme. The fact that pro-Balyeku cadres like Majid Dhikusooka have continued shunning Igeme’s C’s & Sons Hotel where all the official campaign activities are coordinated is another source of discomfort among the candidate’s innermost circle. Yet apart from Balyeku, there are other campaign personnel-related hurdles Igeme must overcome. Reliable sources say that apart from Iganga NRM Chairman Abubaker Walubi, there is hardly any local NRM cadre or mobilizer that is solidly behind Igeme. Majid Batambuze, the Jinja Municipality Mayor says he is for Igeme but supporters are dissatisfied saying the man isn’t consistently present. “He says he is for Igeme but he isn’t adequately present on the campaign caravan to the levels we would like to see,” remarked one of the Igeme supporters. Besides Abubaker Walubi, the other external supporter Igeme has benefited from has been Rogers Mulindwa, the workaholic NRM communications officer who came with Lumumba. The other was Hassan Galiwango who has been active in meetings planning on how to deploy logistics for the campaign in the last 7 days leading to polling day. Mike Mukula came during the President’s meeting at the Civil Service College and has since then not featured very prominently. Local political analysts say that external actors like Mukula are careful fearing to be blamed in case something wrong happens and Igeme doesn’t win.
THE TOGIKWATAKO GHOST:
Igeme also suffers the problem of the way he voted on December 20th 2017. His voters say they sent him for Togikwatako and he voted yes to Magyezi bill lifting age limits. Jinja woman MP Loy Katale is NRM and a diehard Igeme supporter. Voters are grateful she listened to their voices on Togikwatako and her clout is part of what the NRM candidate is riding on to find willing ears in the otherwise very hostile constituency. Katale remains disgruntled that Balyeku, who she considered a senior NRM leader in Jinja, fought her in favor of independent candidate Agnes Nabirye. Her involvement in the Igeme campaign is another reason why supporters doubt whether Balyeku (her arch rival) can genuinely be for Igeme. However, Balyeku’s supporters dismiss Katale as good for nothing. “She is just suffering from politics of elitism and she has no clout whatsoever,” a Balyeku supporter said of woman MP Loy Katale. Igeme also stands blamed for the unemployment the young people are enduring in Jinja. This is not for anything else but because the LAVIT project under which he promised to create 10,000 jobs became a white elephant and never came to fruition. In full it’s Lake Victoria Information Technology and President Museveni, who painted a rosy picture as he launched LAVIT, is as well blamed as well for the joke that LAVIT has turned out to be.
TOO EARLY 4 MWIRU:
Even when he seems to have an upper hand, because of the momentum and political capital he is reaping from voters’ general discontent towards NRM and the big name opposition figures from Kampala, it remains too early for Mwiru to celebrate. Besides external factors like the alleged manipulation of the register by the NRM camp, Mwiru has his own shortcomings including not being entirely accepted by the FDC flock in Jinja. There are malcontents in the FDC camp coalescing around the candidature of Monica Christine Abuze, a former LC5 Councilor representing Jinja East in the district council. She lost her seat in February 2016, a thing she blamed on Mwiru who stands accused of not working well with FDC councilors. At the lower which is Jinja Municipal Council, FDC used to have more councilors but the number dropped to 4 currently and this was blamed on the animosity between Mwiru and party councilors.
Abuze says she is out to contest against Mwiru to preserve whatever will remain of FDC after Gen Muntu’s party is finally formed. She says Mwiru is a key actor in Muntu’s scheme of things making it risky for the party to totally rely on him. She questions why Mwiru is housing his campaign in his own offices at Rock Village as opposed to FDC party offices at Nizam. Abuze also brings in personal vendetta claiming she wanted to stand for Jinja woman MP Seat in 2016 but was sidelined in favor of Hadijah Namubiru who had just defected from NRM. “I was sidelined by Mwiru’s people on grounds I was poor and didn’t have a car to cover the whole district campaigning. They said I’m only on Boda-Boda which is limited in movement. Its true up to now I’m using motorcycle to reach the voters because I’m a grass root person. I was hurt that my MP glorified those with cars instead of building his own cadres in the party. This is why I’m in the race because I believe Mwiru isn’t a leader.
He is poor at PR and the best he can do is to work in a bank,” said Abuze who sounded more belligerent towards Mwiru than even the NRM candidate Igeme. Richard Nyanzi is another FDC-leaning independent out on almost a similar mission to antagonize Mwiru. Nyanzi tried to stand against Mwiru in 2016 but failed badly. But Abuze’s claims are countered by the fact that majority FDC elected leaders are actively backing Mwiru the major example being the Central Division Chairman Mubarak Kirunda aka Political Engineer. Others are councilor Racheal Kalulu, Moses Bizitu who is also Speaker Municipal Council and is also overseeing the media coverage and Councilor Bernard Mbayo among others. Abubaker Maganda is one of the few FDC leaders who are Abuze’s like-minded regarding Mwiru’s alleged unsuitability for the job. Maganda is the FDC Jinja district chairman and in February 2016 lost his bid to become councilor and the blame went to Mwiru who was accused of not being supportive enough. He is rumored to be quietly sympathizing with Igeme having been mobilized by Balyeku.
THE MEDIA SPACE:
The other obstacle Mwiru has to overcome relates to inadequate media coverage whereby all Jinja-based media stations are NRM-owned and are therefore hostile to his campaign. As per the IPSOS reports, the major area radios are NBS fm owned by Igeme (along with KO-TV & Smart fm) closely followed by Balyeku’s Baba fm. Balyeku also owns fast-rising TV4 which started four months ago. Leading moderators like Medi Dhakaba are all biased and openly NRM. In his case, Dhakaba who hosts the leading political show on NBS radio is now a strong Musevenist having been introduced to Museveni by Kasule Lumumba. He returned with a lot of groceries and his life changed in the days and weeks that followed. He these days has a nice house in Jinja town and cruises a powerful Harrier Car which he could only dream about prior to the Lumumba connection. Each time there is an NRM function, Dhakaba is the MC, something for which he gets paid handsomely. Moderators like him openly campaign for the NRM candidate. “On both NBS fm and Baba you have total blackout for Mwiru. They can only report about him if it’s a negative story,” says one of the local media analysts we spoke to for this article. There is also newly acquired Safari fm whose owner, who bought it from Mayuge recently, is also a diehard NRM cadre working in State House. Mwiru is only assured of undistorted coverage on Busoga1 which he co-owns with another eminent son one of Busoga that is rumored to harbor plans to oust Balyeku in 2021.
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