19 March 2011

Uganda: Bageine's Camp Controls Kabale

TWO senior government ministers and one MP form Kabale lost their seats in the just concluded elections.

Godfrey Perez Ahabwe, the minister of State for Local Government, lost his Rubanda East to Henry Musasizi during the NRM primaries and did not contest as an independent.

In the general election Hope Mwesigye, the agriculture minister lost her seat to the Rhonah Ritah Ninsiima (Independent). And Serapio Rukundo the state minister for Tourism lost his Kabale Municipality seat to Andrew Baryayanga (Independent).

Mwesigye has served twice as MP. She was also a Constituent Assembly delegate for Kabale.

Adison Kakuru, the NRM party flag-bearer, lost the Rukiga County parliamentary seat to Jack Sabiiti, an FDC strongman in the surprising results.

Four factors are believed to have worked against the losers; religious sectarianism, political bickering within the NRM plus the character and performance of the affected candidates.

Mwesigye, during her terms, regularly visited her constituents and initiated various local projects. During her second term she had begun establishing bigger agricultural projects. Special NAADS inputs such as improved Irish seeds had started to trickle into Kigezi.

But her biggest weakness as the NRM district chairperson was the failure to win over the Shem Bageine political camp. This camp comprises of MPs David Bahati (Ndorwa West), Henry Banyenzaki (Rubanda West) and Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East), who were fiercely opposed to her.

This camp enjoyed the support of the former Rukiga MP and Minister of State for Privatisation Manzi Tumubweine.

Mwesigye's popularity took a nose dive some time last year when she attacked a Catholic priest, Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda, of Kitanga. Batanyenda was openly opposed to Mwesigye despite being a priest. This prompted Mwesigye to hit back at him. Mwesigye asked him to get married to keep busy. The statement was interpreted to mean that she had attacked the entire Catholic Church.

Mwesigye also became a victim of a smear campaign, where her opponents said she had alleged that women in the area were dry sexually and needed to drink mineral water to replenish their sexual prowess.

Niwagaba explains that their problem with Mwesigye was her method of work.

"She has been fighting everybody; the church, media and other leaders. Mwesigye has been taking politics as a job; not service to the people," Niwagaba says.

Mwesigye is said to have been hostile to the local press which decided to decampaign her in favour of their own Ninsiima, who was a presenter and news anchor at the Kabale-based Voice of Kigezi FM radio (VOK)

"When she became hostile we decided to campaign for our colleague who was press friendly," a journalist at the station said.


Rukundo lost the Kabale Municipality seat to Baryayanga mainly because of failing to deliver. He lacked a project to his name in the constituency during his two terms of office as MP.

"He started a SACCO, but it collapsed. He has also been dull in Parliament by not contributing to debates," says Khalid Latif, a voter in the area.

Rukundo replaced Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, who retired from elective politics but left a track record of good performance. Rugunda is Uganda's Permanent Representative to the UN.

Ahabwe was the first casualty, who lost during the NRM primaries to Musasizi a new entrant to politics. Ahabwe may have been punished for being in Mwesigye's camp. Although he had registered some achievements in his two terms as MP, some voters saw him as arrogant.

"He became arrogant, it was as if being a government minister meant being in heaven. And so we showed him the exit through our votes," a resident, John Kazinio says.


Kakuru, who lost to Sabiiti, the FDC treasurer general, is blamed for being unpopular.

He won the Rukiga County Parliamentary seat by-election following the death of Samuel Byanagwa, the former MP in what most voters said was a rigged election. The by-elections were held a year ago.

Kakuru first served as Rwamucucu sub-county councillor in Kabale District, district speaker and district chairman for two terms. He lost his popularity when he reportedly got involved in the money-lending business. He is considered antisocial and not generous.

In contrast, Sabiiti is a generous, social person with a track record of good performance but whose political career was dented by defecting from the NRM party to the FDC, which is unpopular in the rural western Uganda.

Sabiiti's win was aided by Tumubweine who campaigned for him in most parts of Kamwezi sub-county.

"Tumubweine made an alliance with Sabiiti's camp to defeat Kakuru," Alex Mbaguta says. Sabiiti used to tussle it out with Tumubweine over the Rukiga County MP seat. "I believe Sabiiti will deliver and is a better evil than Kakuru," Mbaguta reveals.

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