Uganda: Battle for 2021 Kampala Mayoral Race Takes Shape

The 2021 Kampala mayoral race is headed for a tighter contest with Kampala District Woman MP Nabilah Naggayi, former lord mayor Nasser Sebaggala, and local artiste Joseph Mayanja, aka Jose Chameleone, entering the ring to outfox the incumbent, Mr Erias Lukwago.

Mr Dan Kazibwe, aka Ragga Dee, and former Kampala Central Division Mayor Godfrey Nyakana are also warming up for the post.

How will the battle for the capital shape up in 2021 with such a pack of strong personalities eager to outmuscling each other?

Former presidential spokesperson Tamale Mirundi says Lukwago remains a strong force as he continues to ride on his voice against harassment of city dwellers, human rights abuses and corruption by government officials to tighten his grip on the electorate.

"Lukwago has paraded himself as a pro-people leader who fights for them during evictions and human rights abuses. He has a better advantage," Mr Mirundi said.

Lukwago's new challenger, Mr Sebaggala, was Kampala's mayor from 1997 to 1998 when he was arrested in the United States for financial fraud. His USA prison sentence did not diminish his local support in Kampala. After serving his jail term, Mr Sebaggala returned home to a heroic welcome and was reelected Kampala Lord Mayor in 2006 on the Democratic Party (DP) ticket until 2011.

Mr Sebaggala is not highly educated. His education level is unclear. His candidature, being Opposition was mainly buttressed by Kampala also being an Opposition stronghold. However, latter, he deserted DP and declared his loyalty to the ruling NRM party and campaigned for President Museveni in Kampala City in 2016. Museveni lost Kampala to the Opposition. This suggests the electorate ignored Sebaggala's voice in 2016.

However, for now, his political brand among the Kampala electorate appears to have been seriously dented. It is hard to speculate whether they will listen to him for his lord mayor's candidature in 2021. He has now reverted to the Opposition but under the new outfit of People Power Movement but has not yet been officially endorsed by the pressure group. It is also hard to know whether he will endear his former appeal to the Kampala electorate.

Mr Lukwago, a DP cadre, who refused to take his party's card and decided to come as an independent in 2016, is holding secret meetings with his campaign teams so that by election time, he runs a smooth campaign.

Ms Naggayi is also in the race for Lord Mayor. She has been winning Kampala District Woman seat on Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) ticket. But this time, FDC has disowned her and refused to endorse her nomination on the party ticket. They said she abandoned the party long time ago and cannot carry its flag. The FDC fallout will obviously affect her support in Kampala. What is not very clear is whether the effect will be substantial to reverse her electoral chances.

Naggayi's chances

Makerere University lecturer of History Prof Mwambutsya Ndebesa says after Naggayi's bid to be nominated by FDC failed, her chances of winning the Lord Mayor seat dwindled to crisis level.

Mr Mirundi doubts Ms Naggayi and Mr Sebaggala are coming on their own. He suspects they are fronts by other interested entities to split the Opposition vote and give NRM an advantage.

However, his claim is not backed by tangible evidence.

"These could be destractors to narrow the chances of the Opposition but they will be of no effect," Mr Mirundi said.

Prof Ndebesa observed that the biggest battle could be between Mr Lukwago and a People Power candidate if they nominate one.

"The stiff competition, though is likely to be between the People Power-sponsored candidate and Lukwago. This could cause cracks that may help NRM to win. It is no longer a sure deal for Opposition like it was in 2016," Mr Ndebesa said.

He said the former considerations of religion, tribe, party and other dynamics that used to give Mr Lukwago advantage no longer matter because the same are shared by the other Opposition challengers who have expressed interest in the Lord Mayor's office.

Two people from NRM, Mr Nyakana and Mr Kazibwe, aka Ragga Dee, are also in the running. Ragga Dee contested for Lord Mayor in 2016 but emerged a distant second, garnering 49,000 votes compared to Mr Lukwago's 176,000.

In 2016, both Naggayi and Lukwago were voted by universal adult suffrage of entire Kampala District. Of 345,830 votes cast, Ms Naggayi polled 123,470 to win Kampala MP seat for the second time. Mr Lukwago polled 176,637 translating into a difference of at least 50,000 votes ahead of Ms Naggayi.

During his peak time between 2001 and 2006, Mr Sebaggala persuaded thousands of Kampala people to vote Col Dr Kizza Besigye, who was then contesting for presidency. On each occasion, Dr Besiye defeated Mr Museveni in Kampala. But Sebaggala's popularity has nose-dived since he openly declared support to President Museveni in 2016.

Last week, he held a press conference at his home in Munyonyo, Kampala, and said he will build on his past achievements such as empowering local people to own and run city markets.

Why the rush for lord mayor?

Prof Ndebesa says the seat is congested because of its power status that heightens its financial and political power.

"The position has good power status, allocation of values and resources. It's very central in Uganda more than the post of an MP," he said.

Under the amended KCCA 2019 Act, the Lord Mayor is responsible for all strategies and programmes for development of the city and addresses council on the state of affairs of the city.

The office of the Lord Mayor also promotes businesses in the city as well as performing ceremonial functions and hosts foreign and local dignitaries.

The Lord Mayor earns Shs22m per month as salary before tax and foreign travels sponsored by either the host or KCCA. The office attracts a variety of benefits such as medical insurance, fuel and telecommunication.

The office creates five employment slots of one driver, a lead car and two personal assistants, a secretary and office attendant for the Lord Mayor.

However, according to the personal assistant to the Lord Mayor, Mr Elvis Kityo Nsonyi, the office is very stressful, especially under the current KCCA Act, which created many power centres.

Mr Kintu said his boss' achievements include enhancement of corporate governance, transformed planning, accountability and transparency.

"He has championed the fight for the common man and the rule of law. He has initiated so many Ordinances that have helped to better the lives of the people of Kampala," Mr Kintu said.

Mr Nyakana said the city leadership must be in harmony with the central government, which is not the case at present.

"What we see is unfelt and non-impactful leadership. Other than subscribing to the ruling party, I am a deep rooted leader within the communities of Kampala and I know the people's problems," Mr Nyakana said.

My Mayanja, aka Chameleone, said: "There is a lot of stuff to put right for our city. We will improve the city while protecting our common people."

It is hard to gauge the chances of the new comers My Nyakana and Chameleone as their past does not suggest advantage or disadvantage. But being new alone is a huge challenge in politics.

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