PROFILE: THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT KCCA SPEAKER HOPEFUL ABUBAKER KAWALYA
By Isaac Wandubile &
The race for the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) speakership is getting heated. One of the candidates that have thrown themselves in the ring for this post is Rubaga North Councilor Abubaker Kawalya, a member of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). Kawalya has not only stolen recent media news headlines for his interest in the speaker role, but also for the controversy surrounding his party’s choice of Makerere University Councilor Doreen Nyanjura as flagbearer for the much-coveted role – a decision he vehemently opposes. And when Mulengera News’ ISAAC WANDUBILE and SAMUEL KAMUGISHA caught up with him in Kampala, Kawalya opened up on the much-publicized controversy, and also gave these reporters a sneak peek into his life off the political scene, including his family, hobbies and future plans.
For some people, being orphaned at a young age can be a devastating blow onto one’s dreams. The case was not any different for Kawalya. The only difference with this councilor was that he chose not to allow the demise of his parents to dent his political and other dreams.
Born in 1984, Kawalya lost his father Hajji Sulaiman Ssempagala in 1990 – at the age of six. More trouble would also come his way three years later when he lost his mother Hafusa Nakabugo.
“But with the support of my other family members, I decided to keep my dreams alive,” says Kawalya, his face somewhat contorting in reminiscence.
One of those people who helped him, as well as his siblings, stay in school was his uncle who stays in Sheema District’s Itendero Town in western Uganda. It was here that the youthful Councilor, who will turn 36 at the end of June, had his upper primary education, sitting his Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) at Itendero Primary School in 1998. Earlier, he had gone to Kasubi Modern Primary School for his lower primary education.
He would later proceed to Hawa SS, Naluvule in Wakiso District for his secondary education, completing his O-level schooling in 2002, and earning his Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) two years later. It was at this school that the Mayoral Speaker hopeful started whetting his leadership skills, serving as Information, and later Academic Affairs Prefect.
For his university education, Kawalya made it to Makerere, Uganda’s oldest and largest higher learning institution. Here, he juggled his Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences (BASS) course with his role in promoting FDC at the university, working in key positions such as Secretary General of the party’s committee at the institution. Majoring in Sociology and minoring in Gender Studies, Kawalya did not only leave Makerere with a second-class upper degree but had also gained more political and administrative skills by the time he graduated in 2009.
Upon graduation, he briefly worked as General Manager at Nakigalala Mixed Farm Limited before diving into Kampala’s political waters. Standing on FDC ticket for the Rubaga LCV Councilor position in 2010, Kawalya came second to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) candidate Godrey Asiimwe.
Before returning to contest for the same seat in 2015, Kawalya joined colleagues to found a consultancy firm dealing in architectural and structural works, land surveying, construction management and real estate development.
Five years after losing to Asiimwe, Kawalya turned lucky in 2015, beating 13 candidates with a huge margin.
A smile lingering on his face, the councilor says the lessons he learnt from his 2010 councilor bid had helped him win the same seat in 2015.
“I lost in 2010 because I jumped into Kampala politics when I didn’t know how to relate well in politics,” he recalls, then adds: “I also had no resources and had not done enough research. But when I contested in 2015, I was very able and had some resources.”
Once in the KCCA Council, Kawalya served as head of the Standing Committee on Physical Planning for two years starting in 2016, as well as on the Engineering and Technical Services Committee for which he has served as Chairperson since 2018.
Married to two wives, Hajj Kawalya is father to five children. In his free time, you can find him watching soccer. He is a proud supporter of Uganda’s SC Villa and English Premier League side Manchester United. Apart from pork and beer, which his faith forbids, all you might need to serve the Councilor when he pays you a visit is Ugandan food.
PLANS FOR KCCA
Aware that the role of Speaker gives him an edge he may not necessarily have currently, Kawalya hopes to use this seat – if he wins – to advance issues that will help the ordinary Kampala resident.
Describing the KCCA journey as “continuous”, the Councilor hopes to “leave behind a legacy” in the handling of at least eight key issues that have plagued Uganda’s capital for years.
One the issues close to Kawalya’s heart is bettering solid waste management. He has pledged to relieve Kampalans of the trouble of having to pay double for waste management.
“The are people who can’t afford a meal a day, yet they are being forced to pay for waste disposal,” says the FDC member, adding that the bills for roles such as garbage handling, drainage, roads and traffic lights are supposed to be footed by proceeds from the Property Tax Fund.
SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS
Also close to his heart, Kawalya adds, is the issue uplifting the lives of Special Interest Groups such as People with Disabilities (PwDs), the elderly, the youth and women, whom he claims have been “marginalized for long.”
KCCA STAFF CONTRACTS
He also says he plans to push for clear employment terms for KCCA staff.
He reasoned that the authority’s insistence on renewing the contracts of workers every four years had for long been affecting their performance.
He revealed he would put pressure on the Public Service Commission to protect workers by employing them on permanent basis once they have worked for at least six months.
DUPLICATION OF TAXES
His other plan touches on the issue of taxes, most of which he argues “are similar.” For example, Kawalya wonders why Kampala businessmen and property owners should pay Property Tax, and Rental Tax on top of a business license.
The Councilor also says he will seek a bigger budget share for KCCA. Noting that Kampala, Uganda’s fattest “cash cow”, contributes a huge chunk of revenue to the country’s resource envelope, Kawalya says the authority now wants at least three per cent of the national budget, instead of the current one per cent the city receives from the Central Government.
He also vowed to hunt for funds for a masterplan aimed at dealing with city flooding in rainy seasons.
“I will work on it. Even if means going to the World Bank to seek funds,” he says.
TROUBLE WITH TECHNICAL WING
He further intends to close the gap between KCCA’s technical wing and the elected leaders.
Noting that the two arms ought to be symbiotic, Kawalya thinks the existing gap was drilled by inaugural KCCA Executive Director Jennifer Musisi who popularized the idea “that the technical team could do without elected leaders.”
Once in office, continues the councilor, I will sit down with the two teams to forge a better working relationship that “will benefit the people of Kampala.”
TONDEKA METRO, BODABODAS
On the issue of public transport, Kawalya hopes to use the office of the speaker to make the central government’s Ministry of Works and Transport assure the public and Council that the Tondeka Metro Project will not be another flop like the Pioneer Buses introduced years ago was.
Kawalya further intends to engage Parliament and the Works and Transport Ministry to find a long-lasting solution to the thorny issue of commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as bodabodas.
“We need to put politics aside to help our people,” he says. After cutting his political teeth as KCCA Councillor, and now seeking the position of Council Speaker, Kawalya says he hopes to serve for only one year before moving on to “bigger things.”
Now leading four of the five parishes of Rubaga North Parliamentary Constituency, the councilor reveals he will be running for election as the constituency’s representative in Uganda’s next Parliament.
Independent MP Moses Kasibante is the current Rubaga North MP.
For now, Kawalya is focusing on rallying at least 33 councilors to vote him as KCCA Speaker. At the centre of his candidature is the FDC’s controversial choice of Nyanjura as the party’s flag bearer. He hopes to convince councilors to back his bid even when he has no blessing of the party he has served since his days at Makerere University.
“I am not afraid; Nobody will intimidate me. I know I have the support of most councilors,” he says, his tone exuberant with confidence. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0788717594 or email us at email@example.com).