The Observer (Kampala)

18 December 2012

Uganda: Presidents Urges Party to Embrace Kamuli Winner

President Museveni last week appeared to have put NRM's heartbreaking electoral defeat in Kamuli behind him, as he urged his political charges in the eastern district to embrace the winner Salaamu Musumba.

An afternoon meeting between the new district Chairman and opposition FDC Vice President Eastern Uganda, Salaamu Musumba and the president last week raised hopes of a deal between the two principals. The president, who was in the district for the fourth time in less than a month, announced that the ruling NRM would work with Salaamu Musumba who defeated their party candidate Thomas Kategere.

At a meeting with NRM leaders at Kamuli Youth Centre on Friday, December 14, Museveni accepted to work with Kamuli's iron lady on condition he heard from her side. Musumba, who was absent, became the talking point in the meeting. The president later personally called her to the meeting.

Museveni rejected calls from NRM people to fight Salaamu on legal grounds, saying it would be the people to suffer. Museveni said; "If we are to fight Salaamu according to the Constitution of Uganda which says that if a chairman does not form a government after three months, her position will be nullified.... it will be the people who will suffer....... Therefore, I agree with you that if Salaamu agrees to work with us and not to promote FDC but to work for the district, we [shall] work with her," he said as the congregation went crazy, with some in the crowd flashing the V sign.

After the meeting, the president had to wait for an hour before Salaamu arrived.

Salaamu arrives

On her arrival, everyone jostled to catch a glimpse of her amidst ululations. On her arrival, she was ushered in by Thomas Kategere whom she squarely trounced in the LC-V by-election. Ms Musumba, FDC's deputy president, was elected last month in a by-election where she beat the NRM's flag bearer, Kategere.

After waiting for more than an hour, a visibly happy Museveni quickly stepped forward and welcomed Salaamu. "My daughter Saalamu, in your absence, we were discussing amongst ourselves..... but first, do you want to work with us or not, secondly when you work with us, are you going to promote FDC in Kamuli? I welcome you to help me with both questions and we see how we can move on," the president inquired.

Salaamu's response

Salaamu's response must have put the president's fears to rest, though not entirely. "I am glad to hear that this congregation believes that I am good to work with. To me, that gives me every reason to say, yes, I will work with you for the people of Kamuli," she said.

In her speech, she clearly spelt out where her political leanings lie. "When I was invited to this meeting, I was fully aware that I belong to FDC, and I am one of its leaders at the very top. What we aspire for in the leadership of FDC is to lead our people of Uganda. ..... I am here for no other reason but to serve the people of Kamuli. I want to serve them with a special flavour, that's why I move with swagger like I promised you, because I am borne here, I am married here, and I will be buried here," she said.

Salaamu also urged the president to celebrate her victory. "I appreciate the decision as (NRM) party to work with me, it is also good that you work with me as FDC, because this is the democracy you fought for sir, this is it, and I think you should celebrate it...," Salaamu said.

After her 16-minute speech, the president held her by the hand and took her behind the tent for a chat that lasted two minutes. However, while they were going towards the tent, Salaamu kept flashing the V sign at the back. She also declined to sit in Museveni's car just like Nasser Ssebaggala, the former Kampala Mayor once did.

Earlier on, Minister Richard Todwong apologized for failing to deliver victory for NRM.

"You deployed me here to chair the coordinating task force for the campaign.....painfully sir, I saw NRM collapse in my face in Kamuli, I have never been hurt to that level, I have never felt that kind of pain before," he said as Junior Foreign Affairs Minister Asuman Kiyingi nodded in agreement. Asuman Kiyingi begged for forgiveness.

"If you (president) had not given your backing, we would not have even got what we got. I request, for the people of Kamuli, that you continue with the parental love you have always given," he said.

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