Kampala — Mr Erias Lukwago yesterday became Kampala's first Lord Mayor after emerging winner of the hotly contested city mayoral election. He polled 229,325 of the total ballots cast, trouncing NRM flag bearer Peter Sematimba, who came second with 119,015 votes.
Other candidates in the race included Mr Michael Mabikke (SDP), Emmanuel Tumusiime (FIL), and Sandra Ngabo (Ind.). While the Mayor-elect and his supporters are in a jubilant mood, developments from State House seem to give the impression that the seat will not attract the clout it once commanded.
Under the newly enacted Kampala Capital City Act (2010), a law through which the central government has created a city authority run by an appointed administrator, Mr Lukwago's role will mainly be ceremonial though retaining powers to preside over the city council.
Nonetheless, even without the clout, the signal sent was that the city, which is the defacto headaquarters of the opposition, is far from the ruling party's control, if the results are anything to go by.
Before the ballot was cast, political analysts had predicted a stiff competition between Lukwago and Sematimba subsequent to the ruling party's improved performance in the presidential and parliamentary election in Kampala. However, Lukwago whitewashed Sematimba in all the district's five divisions. But nothing came to Lukwago's way easily. His win followed a myriad of tactics and alliances.
For instance, last month's strategic National Executive Committee meeting of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change was instantaneously convened by Dr Kizza Besigye with an aim of coming up with a joint candidate for the city mayoral elections. In the meeting, Michael Mabikke was advised to pull out of the race in favour of Lukwago and in return be sent to the East African Legislative Assembly in Arusha, Tanzania.
When this position was communicated to Mabikke, the Makindye East law maker turned down the offer, accusing Besigye of breaching the IPC principles and pulled his party, the Social Democratic Party, out of the coalition.
As Mabikke turned lukewarm towards the IPC, Dr Besigye, who had earlier been quoted in the media expressing his support for Lukwago, proposed that FDC deploys all its manpower in Kampala to protect Lukwago's votes.
His decision was quickly supported by senior party members, including Sam Njuba, Salaam Musumba, Joyce Ssebugwawo and Yusuf Nsibambi. This followed their conclusion that opposition's internal weaknesses had aided the NRM to carry out widespread ballot box stuffing, ghost voting and intimidation in the February 28 presidential poll.
"We had to act otherwise NRM was determined to rig us out of Kampala," said Ms Salaamu Musumba, the FDC deputy president, who by 5am on Monday had already stationed herself at the four Mbuya-Military Barracks polling stations, where she caused the arrest of an army officer who tried to vote twice.
According to Mr Wafula Oguttu, the FDC spokesman, the party had earlier on resolved to sympathise with Lukwago but officially support Mabikke.
But when the latter showed hostility towards them, they decided to support Lukwago.
At personal level, Mr Lukwago held a series of meetings with Besigye over the poll and, according to Mr Ssemuju Nganda, the IPC spokesman, the FDC leader made various contributions to Lukwago's campaign, including offering two of his vehicles and a campaign public address system.
In one of the meetings, Lukwago asked Besigye to help him deploy manpower at all polling stations in the city to ensure that ballot boxes arrive at the voting stations with no ballot papers stuffed in there. Subsequently, Conservative Party president John Ken Lukyamuza called a meeting of IPC leaders' summit, the highest decision making organ of the coalition, which also resolved to support Lukwago. This drove most of the opposition supporters towards Lukwago.
With FDC and Suubi's support, Mr Lukwago assembled a team of opposition vigilantes to guard his votes. This is how the NRM's strategy to rig Kampala mayoral elections was busted on February 23 which eventually led to the calling off the exercise.
Two days to Monday's election, Lukwago's group held two meetings in Kampala to plan vote monitoring. They divided Kampala into 15 sub-divisions each headed by two senior opposition officials.
Mr Ssemuju Nganda (Nakawa), Jack Sabiiti (Kisaasi), Medard Ssegona (Kampala Central), Wafula Oguttu (Ntinda), Salaam Musumba (Mbuya) Charles Sserujogi (Old Kampala), Anita Amongi (Kyambogo), Micheal Kabaziguruka (Luzira) and Betty Nambooze (Rubaga).
Others were Sarah Kanyike and Hussein Kyanjo (both Makindye), Moses Kasibante and Matthias Mpuga (Rubaga area 11). The Suubi group, a Buganda Kingdom-leaning pressure group, gave Lukwago's candidature a significant backing.
Most Baganda remain passionately attached to their kingdom and it's likely that they voted for Lukwago because he has been at the forefront of defending the interests of the kingdom. Although the Kampala mayoral position will be ceremonial, controlling the city remains one of the biggest political statements for any political group to score.