Uganda: Will NRM Party Capture Kampala?

On June 13, President Museveni appointed Ms Dorothy Kisaka as the new executive director (ED) of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) to replace Ms Jennifer Musisi who resigned in October 2018.

Among other changes was Ms Sarah Kanyike, the Deputy Lord Mayor to replace Ms Harriet Mudondo as the Director for Gender, Labour and Social Development. The appointment is the latest of the many previous moves by NRM to recapture Kampala.

The Kampala Lord Mayor, Mr Erias Lukwago, last week replaced Ms Kanyike with Ms Doreen Nyanjura, hours after Ms Kanyike submitted her resignation.

Opposition has largely had the Kampala mayoral seat under its control for most of the time the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government has been in power.

The last NRM member to be Kampala mayor was Christopher Iga in 1997 who had presided over the City Council since 1989.

For the last 20 or so years, Kampala has largely been in the Opposition grip despite relentless efforts by President Museveni and the NRM to recapture the city electorate.

However, the schemes have not delivered the desired outcome and many observers still hold that it will take a long while.

The fight for Kampala

"Of course, going through leaders is fully part of Mr Museveni's plan (with hope) to take over Kampala by winning over individuals onto his side," Mr Lukwago told Daily Monitor last week.

"That exercise is futile. The people of Kampala took a decision a long time ago. They are in for change. Nothing can turn around his (Mr Museveni) political fortunes in Kampala," he added.

The FDC stalwart, Ms Doreen Nyanjura, the KCCA Secretary for Finance, who has replaced Ms Kanyike, dismisses the possibility of NRM recapturing Kampala in the current circumstances and said if it happened, it would be a miracle.

"That has always been the wish of NRM. For us to expect a miracle would really mean we are being unrealistic. I know they (appointed leaders) think that the regime simply wants to use them now that we are nearing elections," Ms Nyanjura said, citing former KCCA executive director, Ms Musisi.

The actual fight for Kampala started in 1997 when Mr Nasser Ntege Sebaggala, a DP member, was elected Kampala mayor. Just one year into office, he was jailed in the USA for fraud.

Another DP stalwart John Ssebaana Kizito (RIP) won the by-elections in June 1999, defeating NRM's Wasswa Ziritwaula.

Ziritwaula quit the National Resistance Council (NRM interim parliament after 1986) when it extended its term in 1989.

He became popular for his stance against the NRM. He later rejoined the NRM and the ruling party thought he would carry his Opposition support with him into the mayoral race in 1999.

Ssebana retained the mayor seat in the 2002 elections and stayed till 2006 when he moved to lead DP as president general.

Mr Sebaggala recaptured the mayor's seat in 2006 on a DP ticket.

Tired of the Opposition dominance, in 2011, the Cabinet made the KCCA Bill which later became an Act. The Act trimmed mayor's executive powers which would be bequeathed to the newly created position of executive director held by Ms Jennifer Musisi.

As executive head of KCCA, it was anticipated that Ms Musisi would transform Kampala City without hindrances and disruptive authority of the political opposition and endear the population to the ruling party.

However, this move did not yield the fruits. In 2016, the President again lost Kampala to the Opposition.

He accused Ms Musisi of being iron-handed in implementing the KCCA development programmes and thus alienating the NRM from the electorate.

On August 4, 2017, Ms Olive Basemera, a Kampala vendor drowned in the Nakivubo Channel as she fled KCCA law enforcement officers that had threatened to arrest her.

Later Museveni said he lost the 2016 Kampala vote because of Ms Musisi's high-handedness and poor work methods which led to the NRM's defeat in the city.

In October 2018, Ms Musisi announced her resignation and eventually quit office in December that year.

So to many observers, the appointment of Ms Kanyike is not the first time the President is picking leaders from the Opposition.

The founder of Opposition party Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA,) Ms Beti Olive Kamya, was on June 6, 2016 appointed Minister for Kampala before she was moved to the Ministry of Lands on December 14, last year.

Prior to founding her own party, Ms Kamya had been a prominent Opposition leader in Kampala and represented Rubaga North in Parliament from 2006 to 2011 under the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party.

Upon her appointment to Cabinet in 2016, she promised to deliver the Kampala electorate back to Museveni.

"I pledge that as you handed over Kampala to me, you will get 80 per cent (vote) and above. You know my mobilisation capabilities. Kisanja (tenure) 2021 is for Museveni," Ms Kamya pledged after the appointment.

She was replaced by Ms Betty Amongi in last year's Cabinet reshuffle. However, there was no sign on the ground by then that the NRM fortunes in Kampala had changed as frequent mass protests by Opposition supporters ruled the city and its suburbs.

Kampala Central constituency parliamentary seat which had for long been in the firm grip of the NRM with Mr Francis Babu in charge also finally slipped to the opposition.

Mr Erias Lukwago of DP dethroned him in the 2001 elections.

The seat was later taken up by Mr Muhammad Nsereko in 2006. Mr Nsereko at the time was an NRM leaning member but dropped his membership and contested as an independent candidate in the 2016 General Election.

Late last year, President Museveni, while in Katwe, a suburb of Kampala, appointed artistes, Ms Catherine Kusasira and Mr Mark Bugembe (Buchaman) as his presidential advisers on matters of Kampala to help him win back the city electorate.

Mr Bugembe had previously been an ally of Mr Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine), the MP Kyandodo east at the latter's Kamwokya-based Firebase Music Studio.

However, the appointments split the NRM Kampala leadership as Mr Salim Uhuru, the NRM chairperson for Kampala Central, accused Mr Museveni of handling party issues outside the existing structures.

Commenting on Mr Museveni's attempt to win the ghetto world, former journalist and now spokesperson of the political pressure group People Power, Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, doubted the approach will benefit the President.

"Mr Museveni knows that he does not have the city in his hands as he would like. What he does is to try and engineer support. He keeps making those attempts but the people of Kampala know what they want," he said.

He advised government to focus on service delivery instead of fishing individuals from the Opposition.

"That is not just the way it works. It would make sense if you were building hospitals for the people in the ghetto rather than 'buying' them off," Mr Ssenyonyi said.

In the 2006 elections, Dr Kizza Besigye got 245, 004 (56.69 per cent in Kampala while Mr Museveni had 170, 688 votes (39.5 per cent).

The 2016 General Election saw Opposition triumph over President Museveni in Kampala and Wakiso District.

Out of the 522,139 votes cast in Kampala Mr Museveni had 30.9 per cent while his arch rival Dr Besigye got 65.9 per cent.

In Wakiso District, 484, 589 votes were cast and 280,793 (59.97 per cent) voted Dr Besigye while 172,129 (36.76 per cent) were for Mr Museveni.

In 2011, Museveni appointed Mr Sebaggala as Minister without portfolio, but Parliament rejected due to lack of qualifications. However, Mr Sebaggala's political appeal in Kampala had also waned after shifting his allegiance to NRM.

In 2011, Mr Lukwago defeated NRM candidates Mr Peter Ssematimba and Mr Daniel Kazibwe (Ragga Dee) to take Kampala's lord mayor seat.

Mr Lukwago got 176, 637votes (80 per cent) against Mr Kazibwe 49, 366 votes.

Considering the NRM performance in the previous polls, the public waits to see if the latest appointment of Ms Kanyike and Ms Kisaka will deliver Kampala to Museveni in 2021.

NRM REACTS

Mr Rogers Mulindwa, the NRM communications officer, said appointments have nothing to do with the NRM support in Kampala.

"Those people are called to serve the nation. There is nothing to do with the (NRM) party. Even Ms Kanyike whether she belongs to another party, she is a Ugandan. This is not the first time the President is picking Opposition people to serve in this government," Mr Mulindwa said in a telephone interview.

However, he added that the new leadership is tasked to deliver to the expectations of the President.

"It is not the NRM but the government. We want better service delivery so that the task is on them to deliver to the expectation of the appointing authority," Mr Mulindwa said.

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