In Kampala, the lord mayorship is the most coveted and most sought-after political job. It's still early days, but the 2021 mayoral hopefuls have started to aggressively ramp up their credentials and refine their strategies to capture votes in specific suburbs.
With the incumbent Erias Lukwago still the most recognizable candidate to beat, other hopefuls feel a growing urgency to stand out and set themselves apart with detailed policies they would pursue as mayor.
The crowded field of hopefuls so far includes Hajj Latif Ssebaggala (Kawempe North MP), musician Joseph Mayanja, commonly known as Jose Chameleone, Jaffar Amin, a former first son; Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, a decorated NRA bush war veteran; and the incumbent Erias Lukwago.
The Observer has followed their initial campaigns and offers a rare glimpse into their to-do list as mayors.
He is in his 18th year as Kawempe North MP but insists he is not switching jobs because his popularity has waned in a constituency where he has had a towering political footprint since 2001. His interest in the lord mayorship, he says, is borne out of a desire to serve the many underserved Kampala.
"I have been in Kampala politics since 1995, meaning I have vast experience in handling city matters; I started out as LC-I chairman and went on to become MP. So, people are still interested in me; I have participated in many elections with more than five people so Kampala will not be an issue," he said in a recent interview at his school in Kisaasi, a Kampala suburb.
Ssebaggala is leaving behind a crowded field of candidates for his seat. So far the stand-out contenders include Sulaiman Sserwadda Kidandala, a DP stalwart and Mohammed Segirinya, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC)'s lord councilor for Kawempe.
Ssebaggala says incumbent mayor Lukwago has played his part but Kampala cannot be run by one person year after year.
"In the opposition, we don't ring-fence positions like the NRM. I have been contesting with the opposition and people have a right to choose their leaders...the city will never go back to NRM, it's for the opposition and that is clear," he said.
Ssebaggala claims he has a bit of an edge over the other candidates because in 2021, he will be working with Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine, the leader of the popular youthful People Power movement with a strong showing in Kampala.
"I will be working with the president of my choice Kyagulanyi...," he said.
HIS PLANS FOR THE CITY
As mayor, Ssebaggala says his centre stage issues will include taxation, tackling unemployment, swift garbage collection, sports, roads, health and schools.
On taxation, he says Kampala deserves a bigger budget from the central government because it's the capital city.
"With Bobi Wine as the president, our government will inject more funds into city operations; this will reduce stress on taxpayers. I will also change the KCCA taxing regulations and reintroduce the KCC tax regime," he said.
"We will go back to the KCC tax assessment regime rather than this KCCA blanket taxation; the KCC regime used to assess before imposing a tax yet KCCA's is an assumption taxation," he said.
On unemployment, Ssebaggala said he would open up more open-air markets in different divisions of the city ...
"I want to create areas where hawkers can work in the evening; basically, I will gazette the areas." He says he will turn the huge heaps of city garbage into money. The garbage, he says, will be turned into electricity, biogas and manure. "...scrap and plastic are well recycled, garbage too can also be utilized; we will get partners to do biogas for us and this can be sold to the Kampala community," he said.
Ssebaggala insists Kiruddu and Kawempe referral hospitals should not be managed by the ministry of Health.
"There is a lot of confusion, Kiruddu and Kawempe sometimes fail to find their place, there is no clear demarcation of who is to manage them, either ministry of Health or KCCA, and that applies to city schools too," he said.
Hajj Latif Ssebaggala is an educationist, a parent and imam. He holds a bachelor's degree in Education from Makerere University; graduated in 1996
- Former LCI Kisaasi Kikajo zone
- Former LCII chairperson, Youth Council- Kikaaya parish
- Former youth councillor Kawempe division
-Director Kisaasi College
LT. GEN HENRY TUMUKUNDE
He is a decorated NRA bush war veteran and former security minister. Tumukunde has severally talked up his credentials and interest in the Kampala mayoral seat.
So far, Tumukunde has taken his campaign to radio shows and is also conducting on-the-ground meet-the-people tours around Kampala. Tumukunde has sharply criticized the quarrels between the technical and political managers of the city, claiming they have not done enough for the city but wasted lots of time bickering over petty things.
In his first term, Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago spent much of his official time locked in quarrels with the outgone KCCA executive director Jennifer Musisi. Speaking to Sunday Vision last month, Tumukunde said Kampala needs to be more organized with clean social amenities.
Once elected mayor, he plans to introduce a robust waste management and drainage system. He insists people in slums are suffering because of poor city planning. Like Latif Ssebaggala, Tumukunde is a liberal brainpower, a retired senior military general of the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF), who hopes to capitalize on Lukwago's weaknesses.
But Kampalans are wondering whether he will campaign as an independent candidate or he will lean on the hugely unpopular ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). But those who have interacted with him say he stands a better chance as an independent candidate.
NRM has miserably lost in Kampala for a very long time. NRM has spent a fortune on previous mayoral elections in Kampala only to lose miserably to the opposition. Tumukunde is a good mobiliser. He has mobilized politically for the NRM in previous elections.
WHO IS TUMUKUNDE?
Tumukunde is a lawyer and former security minister, a position he held for a very short time. He also served as director general of Internal Security Organisation (ISO) and of Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), and at some point he commanded the UPDF 4th Division.
He has been branded by many as a joker who should stick to his music. Joseph Mayanja was recently unveiled by the Democratic Party (DP) as a flag bearer for the Kampala mayoral race. Chameleone has a lot to explain to voters. To some, he is an NRM mole who actively campaigned for President Museveni in 2016 through the song Tubonga Nawe.
Chameleone strenuously denies that label. Interviewed in June by The Observer, Chameleone said Lukwago has nothing visible and tangible to show for his 10 years at the helm of City Hall apart from his very public feud with the KCCA technical team.
"He may have done something but even the best dancer leaves the stage at some point; we want leadership that changes, and not stagnant...it's normal for people to run out of ideas," he is quoted to have said.
Garbage collection and putting an end to the mistreatment of vendors by KCCA law enforcement are centre stage issues for Chameleone.
"People dump garbage anywhere because there are no dumping facilities, people are also being thrown out of the city without giving them alternatives," he said.
In the last mayoral elections, musician Ragga Dee (Daniel Kazibwe), who was fronted by NRM, lost miserably to Lukwago.
There have been whispers that Amin will run for Kampala mayor. But Amin has carefully dodged media interviews. He is one of the many sons of former President Idi Amin Dada. This is not the first time he has shown interest in joining politics. In 2015/16, he eyed the Arua Municipality seat but pulled out.
So far Lukwago is cagey about his re-election ambitions. When The Observer interviewed one of his handlers, he said the mayor is not comfortable talking about the mayoral race at this time. In an interview with The Observer shortly after the departure of Musisi from City Hall, Lukwago said he was directing all his energies at the time to fighting President Museveni and his proxies like Beti Kamya, the minister for Kampala.
"No comment! Whether I am standing or not, that is immaterial now. Will you force me to make a comment? My central focus now is to deliver on the mandate entrusted to me," he told our reporter.
He added; "Why would I be focusing on 2021 when I have immediate challenges before me? I think it would be self-defeating on my part. You have a hurdle to jump today then you look at two years to come! Are you really a sensible person? I don't want to clog my mind with anything concerning 2021."
Lukwago, however, said his team has come up with a number of ordinances such as the administration and management of markets to address the leadership crisis and sewerage and fecal sludge management for sanitation in Kampala.