In the political game of numbers, President Museveni on Monday received 400 alleged former FDC supporters from Rukungiri to bolster his NRM base with an increased figure.
For this effort, Museveni committed at least Shs 245m to this group as facilitation, sources have told us. The group, from the home of former FDC supremo Dr Kizza Besigye, was in Rwakitura to declare that they had crossed over to the NRM.
The group was reportedly mobilised by Rukungiri deputy RDC Harriet Nakamya, herself a former member of the FDC national mobilisation committee, who defected to the ruling party about a year ago.
Her defection was not publicised; in fact FDC leaders were caught unawares when she was appointed as the Rukungiri deputy RDC. The news came at a time when the party was still waiting for her return to give a report from a UK conference where she had been sent to represent FDC.
"Having been a member of the national mobilisation team, I knew all the lies we were using, and when I was sent to Rukungiri [as Deputy RDC] I had a duty to change the district, and I can tell you, FDC is losing it," Nakamya told The Observer on Saturday.
After about six months in office, she embarked on a campaign to infiltrate the FDC support base, and when she arrived with her group at President Museveni's country home in Rwakitura, Kiruhura district, the NRM rejoiced.
How it happened:
A statement issued by senior presidential assistant on Communication, Sarah Kagingo, described the development as a testimony to President Museveni's stand on non-sectarianism, nationalism, pan-Africanism and socio-economic transformation
"President Museveni, the national chairman of the NRM party, received over 400 former FDC supporters from Rukungiri district who crossed over to NRM. They included FDC leaders of all categories," Kagingo's statement read in part.
But according to Rukungiri Municipality MP Roland Mugume Kaginda, who also doubles as the district FDC chairman, it was largely a hoax, designed to make money. To mobilise the 400 defectors, The Observer has learnt, Nakamya first held meetings with small groups in different areas where she placed two coordinators with a duty to meet and convince selected FDC supporters with a promise of financial incentives from President Museveni.
"She convinced us to talk to some of our colleagues in FDC to accept and meet the president with a promise that he [Museveni] would help us to fulfill our needs. She told us that Museveni was going to get us out of poverty," a source that attended the meeting told us.
This source was one of the coordinators in one of the divisions in Rukungiri municipality. In September, as the district prepared to host the 51st national Independence day celebrations, the coordinators were called to meet two unidentified men from the Office of the President who were waiting at Rendezvous hotel in Rukungiri town.
"At Rendezvous, they met us separately, and when my turn came, they asked me what I wanted them to do for me to leave FDC, and what challenges I was facing. After the engagement, they asked me to meet the deputy RDC for some facilitation," John Nuwamanya, the FDC general secretary for Rukungiri municipality, told us over the weekend.
Hopes of a presidential financial boost died out on Independence day, when no mention of their meeting with the president was forthcoming. But around midnight on October 20, Patrick Natukunda, commonly known as Jeje, called Nuwamanya: the long-awaited journey was due the following day at noon.
Nuwamanya was, in fact, tasked to inform the other coordinators to contact their people. The venue was Riverside hotel in Rukungiri but by the time they arrived, other people had already arrived. Some 15 soldiers were on guard.
"The deputy RDC told us that even if you don't know your colleague, don't ask because you are all Ugandan," Nuwamanya said.
What Nakamya did not know was that in the group, were at least five spies deployed by FDC, to compile a list of the alleged defectors and to keep the party informed of the developments.
According to the FDC spies in the group, Nakamya hired five buses to transport the 'defectors' to Rwakitura. Three of the buses' registration numbers UAS 942D, UAT 771P and UAT 334P, belonging to Global Coaches Bus Company, arrived in Rukungiri with people they suspect were from Bushenyi, Ntungamo, Kanungu, Mityana and Mbarara districts.
Two other buses belonging to the Rukungiri-based Kacho Coaches were also waiting.
"We were about 380 people, some were known to me, and I knew some as NRM supporters but we were all told to claim that we are FDC supporters," Nuwamanya says.
Top on the list is the Rukungiri district Health Officer (DHO) Dr Kase Rutahigwa. Rutahigwa unsuccessfully contested against Mugume in the FDC primaries in 2010. When he lost, he denounced FDC to contest as an independent candidate in the elections for Rukungiri municipality, which he also lost.
The list of NRM leaders include: Alex Tumuramye aka Omuzinga, the district councillor for Nyakagyeme sub-county, and the district's secretary for Social services, Frank Kamaani (chairperson NRM business league), Sylvester Rukarama (chairperson NRM Elders' league, Buhunga sub-county), and a one Koroboza, a taxi driver and NRM mobiliser in Rukungiri municipality.
Others are NRM village leaders from Rukungiri municipality namely Fausta Kaburungi (Kamuri cell, Eastern Division), Jolly Byamaka (Kigina cell, western division), Erikadi Twinamatsiko (Katobo cell, western division), Centenary Kembabazi Kabajurizi (Kigina cell, western division), Dinah Komugabe (Kagashi ward, eastern division), Constance Mbabazi (Kagashi ward), who also played the role of the Women's group leader in Rwakitura, Zaverino Kamberaho (Kagashi cell) and Witness Nkumire (Ndorero).
The long list includes people unknown in Rukungiri. These include Suzan Nalugga, Herbert Onyango, Charles Kasujja, Ismail Kalema, Stanley Ssekajja, Ritah Nabasirye and John Ssentamu. But on Saturday, the deputy RDC roundly dismissed any suggestions these people were not from Rukungiri.
"I'm going to disprove all those that are making such claims when mzee [President Museveni] formally comes to Rukungiri to welcome them to NRM. What they are maybe failing to understand is that FDC fortunes in the district have changed," she said.
"Previously, the district would riot when Besigye was arrested in Kampala, and I am sure he must have realised the change when he arrived for the Independence day celebrations because none was bothered about his arrival, and when he was arrested and bundled into a police van and whisked away, the situation remained the same," she adds.
Mugume, however, says Nakamya should instead be investigated for scheming to defraud government.
"Because her intention is about making money from the president, when she failed to convince FDC [members to cross], she would then pick on members of one family. For example in that group, there were seven family members of the late Michael Baguma of Rwakabengo, these are people we know as NRM supporters," Mugume said.
The seven Mugume talked about are: Patrick Natukunda Jeje (who works in the RDC's office), his wife Perusi Natukunda, Africano Kanyesigye and Emmanuel Tumukunde, Polycarp Mujurizi and his two wives.
Despite being a civil servant, Dr Rutahigwa, the district health officer, spoke on behalf of the group at Rwakitura. According to a source at the meeting, Rutahigwa told Museveni that since they had now changed to NRM, he should help them get out of poverty, and to also build a hospital in the district.
Sources told us that having taken part in a partisan activity, Rutahigwa could be in deep trouble. And when contacted on Saturday, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Stephen Ouma told The Observer that Rutahigwa might have to explain how he got involved.
"I have also heard about it but I don't have any details on how he went for that meeting because he did not seek permission," Ouma said.
After Museveni had 'welcomed' them to NRM, he was introduced to four groups of mechanics, boda boda cyclists, women and men, to which he pledged a Shs 40m each for anti-poverty activities.
The group was later served tea and dinner before each signed for a Shs 100,000 transport refund from Brig Proscovia Nalweyiso, the special presidential assistant on the Military.
"It is very true we got the money, it was transport refund to take them back home from where the buses dropped them, and none of us got more than that," Nakamya said.
Nakamya also received another package of Shs 15m to pay the buses having hired each at a rate of Shs 3m. Since many went expecting at least Shs 1m each from the president, the transport refund did not please them, and some were reported to be planning to donate it to the district treasury.