By John V Sserwaniko
Political investigations by this news website in Kisoro district indicate that President Museveni must quickly intervene if his NRM party is to survive disintegration in Kisoro which is home to his ex-IGP Gen Kale Kayihura. Gen Kale’s absence has deprived the district of a uniting factor and direct link to the President he used to be. This has led to clique formation with less important politicians ganging up on Mzee Philemon Mateke who they say as Regional Cooperation Minister hasn’t done enough to get them regular audience with Museveni. Some in fact accuse him of using his clout to frustrate their political ambitions. This is the feeling among supporters of Bufumbira North & South MPs James Nsaba Buturo and Sam Bitangaro. While capitalizing on his wife Edith being Undersecretary Defense Ministry (which secured him access to army men), Buturo campaigned telling voters he was ministerial material. He never became Minister and instead Museveni maintained Mateke who first rejoined cabinet in 2015 as part of the broader strategy to isolate JPAM. Bitangaro’s supporters believe their man was senior and connected enough to become Minister. And some of them view AG William Byaruhanga negatively claiming that the position he took was meant for Bitangaro. It’s even more angering that Mateke is ex-officio without being MP. The argument is that elected MPs would use the empowerment that comes with ministerial appointment to mobilize more support for the NRM and Museveni in Kisoro than Mateke is doing (partly because of age and being low on ambition being octogenarian). “They are all swelling and hating Mateke for that but they won’t attack him openly fearing repercussions because voters revere him like Baganda do to their Kabaka. Not even a single radio station can risk hosting a politician bashing Mateke,” says a local radio political journalist who preferred anonymity to freely discuss the matter. “Truth is all sitting MPs are uncomfortable with him but can’t dare oppose him openly having seen how his negativity cost Ceaser Mulenga and failed his bid to become King of the Bafumbira.”
Away from resenting Mateke’s overbearing influence, religious differences is another factor keeping Kisoro politicians apart and the radio journalist says this can only escalate since Kayihura (who used to challenge leaders to overlook such historical differences) is totally quiet and not actively in circulation anymore. Since the old Obote days, Kisoro was polarized between Catholics who backed DP and Mateke-led Protestants who backed UPC. Elder Tress Buchanayand (former Minister and MP) for instance isn’t on good terms with Mateke because one is Catholic and the other Protestant respectively. In fact as his son Eng Paul Buchanayand campaigns to replace Kisoro Municipality MP Sam Byibesha, he faces hostility from mostly Protestants who claim loyalty to Mzee Mateke. But Buchanayand is advantaged that whereas Mateke is busy with regional work, he has time to concentrate on marketing his son since he fully lives in Kisoro running his St. Andrews Academy which is Kisoro’s 2nd most prestigious school after Vision SS. He also does big time commercial tea farming notwithstanding frustrations by Garuga Musinguzi who has delayed to extend processing services. In 2016, Eng Buchanayand stood and lost to Mateke-backed Byibesha. On the woman MP slot, Buchanayand who wasn’t seeking reelection backed eventual winner Rose Kabagenyi who defeated incumbent Sarah Mateke (Mzee’s Philemon’s daughter). All the eventual MP seats winners actually fought Sarah Mateke in favor of Kabagenyi in whom they are now very disappointed. In all he did for Kabagenyi, Buchanayand had financial support of tycoon Cesar Mulenga who hated Mateke for not endorsing his Kingship ambitions. This (Sarah Mateke defeat) naturally created a wedge with Mzee Philemon which remains unbridged in absence of the mediator Kayihura used to be. “There is some quietness but proxy wars between the MPs’ supporters and Mateke are ongoing and the wedge can only widen,” emphatically says the radio journalist who is among the many we spoke to-to deepen our understanding of the areas local political dynamics. In standing up to Mateke, the Bitangaro camp is emboldened by the fact that their man is well solidified in local Catholic Church whose Bishop Cranimer Mugisha is his close ally. The Bishop ensures every weekend there is a public ceremony for modestly rich Bitangaro to either preside over or generously fund.
Some time back the district chairman Abel Bizimana (who by the way isn’t on good terms with MPs especially Buturo) organized belated Independence Day celebrations in the Bakiga-habited Busimbiri Sub County. As area MP Buturo, who has ignored the two Bakiga-habited Sub Counties hoping they are to become new constituency in the runner up to 2021, faced it rough. The heckling crowd never allowed him to talk. They denounced him for ignoring them since 2016. With humiliation, he left microphone and took his seat. After the function, much-hated Buturo found his car tires flattened and needed people to push the vehicle. Residents refused to lend a hand advising him to call his wife to send him a break down from defense Ministry. “It was a very embarrassing day for Hon Buturo and the winner in all this was Eddie Kwizera who says he was victimized because of the heavy deployment of pro-Buturo soldiers from the UPDF and was supposed to even go to court but gave up after realizing it wasn’t going to be easy given Buturo wife’s deep connections in Kampala,” says one of the area political analysts we spoke to. As he went through all this, Buturo supporters were quick to cite the Mateke invisible hand. When Rose Kabagenyi recently attended Kinkizi West MP James Kaberuka’s wedding in Kanungu where she drunk, got intoxicated and became laughing stock at the ceremony, her sympathizers were quick to claim seeing Mateke’s invisible hand because she defeated her daughter in 2016. This actually wasn’t the first time free-spirited Kabagenyi was getting intoxicated and ending up not looking very good. Whereas most of these episodes have happened in drinking joints in Kampala, voters get to know about this and it’s something that has lowered Kabagenyi’s ratings. When MPs passed extension to 7 years, Kabagenyi relaxed and took this to be reason to shun voters more. When Court blocked the 7 years, Kabagenyi resumed going to the constituency but was let down by her wallet not being deep enough. To reconcile voters, she needed to spend much more than she had. This condemned her to financial problems which have gone to the core of her relationship with the Catholic Church, a core component in her original political structure. The day of the Kanungu embarrassment, Kabagenyi was expected to be chief guest at Ntungamo-Nkuringo Catholic Church parish fundraising event which the priests spent a whole year organizing. On being reminded of the event by one of her coordinators, Kabagenyi sent Shs250,000 via mobile money and her phone went off. This betrayal annoyed many people to the extent that the priests are now shopping for another Catholic to front. Recently one of her key supporters travelled to Kampala to discuss the impact of the Nkuringo debacle. And on failing to confirm the Kiteezi pad in which she lives is hers, the mobilizer became crestfallen and resorted to decampaigning her on return to Kisoro. Elders expected she would organize a wedding on getting elected, which hasn’t happened hence fermenting more discontent. Recently Kabagenyi suffered a youth riot as young people petitioned the RDC accusing her of conniving with OWC coordinators to divert their NAADS cows and piglets to please women groups that had previously denounced her. All these have combined to make her politically very stressed, prompting Mateke’s daughter Sarah to commence early campaigns ahead of NRM primaries slated for August 2019. Clearly there is a lot of polarisis in Kisoro and yet the clergy, who ideally should spearhead reconciliation, are only fermenting more chaos. The clerics are active rivals and like using politicians to fight proxy wars on their behalf.
Yet even would-be active cadres are disgruntled because of the President’s unfulfilled promises to them. One such victim is former LC5 Chairman Milton Bazaire who (as independent candidate) pulled out of the 2016 race on condition Museveni would appoint him Ambassador, an offer that has never materialized today nearly 3 years later. He was taken by then RDC Shafik Sekandi to Masindi where Museveni persuaded him to step down for the flag bearer. Bazaire now lives peasantry life in the Kisoro villages as he has no means to reach and remind the President. His painful predicament (living in near destitution) has demoralized many would-be active cadres and many of the young people in the Municipality and major townships are looking forward to Bobi Wine’s People Power except that they don’t know how to establish contact with him. Bazaire became more hopeless recently when some key State House aides told him to “forget about that because in 2016 campaigns Mzee promised jobs to so many people and there is no way he can cater for all of them.” At least let him get me some money as he promised to reimburse me for what I had spent, Bazaire suggested prompting the aides to tell him “that too won’t happen because government is broke.” For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755.