Uganda: Why Museveni Lost Luweero Votes

18 January 2021

While a section of the public including analysts are quick to attribute the poor performance of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party in Luweero, an area greatly cherished by NRM historical members, to a wave by the youthful population craving for leadership change, the failure by the party leadership to address some concerns partly explains the election result.

In Luweero District, the NRM party candidate Gen Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, garnered 41,166 votes (27.94 per cent) against his closest rival, Robert Kyagulanyi, aka, Bobi Wine of the National Unity Platform, who garnered 103,782 votes (70.45 per cent).

The failure by the NRM party to have a single Member of Parliament candidate win a constituency in the district explains the level of resentment among the voters that previously identified themselves with the NRM party after hosting the Bush War liberators for more than four years during the struggle.

At the earlier preparations for the NRM primary elections, the leadership in Luweero was pressing for an engagement with the top brass of the NRM leadership to try and address a string of challenges the party was bound to face during the 2021 General Election. The leaders, including veteran politician Abdul Nadduli, who had earlier been dropped from the Cabinet as Minister without portfolio, sounded the first alarm bells alleging that the NRM leadership was downplaying several challenges, including the unfulfilled pledges in Luweero.

But several actors questioned the intentions of the veteran politician who had been part of the top brass in the NRM government but failed to use his position to influence policies in favour of Luweero development projects.

On October 25, 2020, the Daily Monitor ran a feature story: Luweero-NRM's political Mecca staggers into the 2021 election, detailing how Luweero, the birth place of the NRM party ruling party, was staggering into the just concluded election with a united voice of resentment and a big list of unfulfilled pledges.

Issue

One of the questions that has always been a big talk among the district leaders is the failure by the NRM government to fufil to a more than 30-year-old pledges made by President Museveni to have the district headquarters for Luweero built since it was in exchange for the buildings that were taken over by government at the now UPDF Land Forces headquarters at Bombo Town.

The endless promises that never came to fulfillment saw the district leaders mobilise local resources to have a construction programme begin in 2019. Surprisingly, Luweero has had a fair representation at Cabinet level among other government departments.

Luweero through the past 30 years has had the opportunity of having Cabinet ministers, including Dr Edward Khidu Makubuya, Syda Bumba Namirembe, Dr Kisamba Mugerwa (deceased), Mr Muruli Mukasa, Dr JC Muyingo, Ambassador James William Kinobe, and Mr Nadduli.

These served at the different portfolios and had the opportunity to influence decisions in favour of Luweero as political heads of key government ministries since their respective appointments were made by President Museveni .

Wasted opportunity

Mr Mugerwa, in an interview with the Daily Monitor recently, argued that Luweero could have missed out on the great opportunity to have a direct rehabilitation programme targeting infrastructure development in the early 2000 at the time when the Luweero Triangle Ministry under the Office of the Prime Minister was formed. Even the Seed Fund under the Entadikwa Scheme had originally been crafted to first benefit the greater Luweero districts but was reportedly hijacked by government technocrats to have the projects spread to the entire country even though the funds could not profitably benefit the entire country, he said.

"Both the past and present leaders, including myself, share the blame for failing to embrace unity in advocating for projects that could uplift the general livelihoods of the people of Luweero. It is unfortunate that as I talk, Luweero has lost the battle because we have failed to have many of the pledges made by government fulfilled. I am lucky that I voluntarily opted out of active politics," Mr Mugerwa explained to the Daily Monitor in an interview last year.

While one would have thought that the 2021 elections was an opportunity for the leaders in Luweero District to push for an engagement with Mr Museveni to have some of the pledges fuifilled, this never took place at Kawumu presidential farm due to the Covid-19 pandemic guidelines that limited the meeting to just a few selected party mobilisers.

While government fulfilled one of the old pledges of elevating Luweero Health Centre IV unit to a district hospital in 2019 as pledged by Mr Museveni in 2004 when he toured Luweero, the fact that government was to expand the facility in phases through the successive financial year budget funding beginning 2019/2020, the progress, according to Mr James Ssensalire, a former teacher and Bush War veteran and resident of Makulubita Sub-county, claims the facility is yet to fully acquire the specialised medical services.

"The hospital at Luweero is among the many pledges that the people of Luweero were demanding from the government. It is not yet fully operational since it lacks particular specialised services. Government through the Ministry of Health should have equipped Luweero Hospital and have President Museveni commission it before the polls," Mr Ssensalire told Daily Monitor.

Other infrastructure

While Luweero boasts of more than 1,500kms of the road network that connect through the different sub-counties, 70 per cent of the roads infrastructure is in a sorry state. At the time of campaigns, the Opposition politicians capitalised on the poor state of the infrastructure to promise good roads.

The Gulu-Kampala highway that has a 135km-stretch from Matugga to River Kafu in Nakasongola District has tarmac after the major rehabilitation work undertaken by Uganda National Roads Authority in 2016, but except for the Zirobwe- Gayaza road that has tarmac and the Matugga-Kapeeka road stretch with tarmac but now having potholes, the rest of the road infrastructure needs upgrade.

Covid-19 and empty food promises

When the pandemic hit the country, and government slapped a movement ban among other restrictions, the greater Luweero district such as many other areas of the country, had a section of its population starving.

The youthful boda boda riders and taxi operators among the many other groups that were left unemployed waited for government emergence food rations that were never delivered. No government official could explain the delay in distribution of facemasks and food rations during the campaigns.

The Opposition politicians took advantage and promised that since the NRM government had made it a habit to openly promise 'air', it was time to taste the ability of a new government that is not the NRM through the ballot box.

While the greater Luweero boasts of the Industrial park established at Kapeeka Sub-county in Nakaseke District and deemed to be one of the most successful programmes government has championed though foreign investors, the fact that the percentage of the locally sourced workers from Nakaseke, Luweero and Nakasongola is less than 25 per cent is a factor that is not playing well with the local residents.

The land problem

The greater Luweero districts are among the areas in Uganda characterised by endless land evictions, land grabbing cases and disputes where government is yet to come up with a solution despite the existing land laws.

The respective offices of the Resident District Commissioners, more than 85 per cent of cases reported involve alleged land grabbing, evictions among other land related problems.

In Luweero District, between January 2018 and February 2019, the office of the RDC recorded about 560 land-related cases involving eviction, land grabbing and disputes.

In all these cases, rich and well-connected people have allegedly exploited the land laws and grabbed land from the powerless residents.

In Bamunanika County where the State minister for Higher Education, Dr JC Muyingo, lost to his former political assistant Robert Ssekitoleko, the residents accused Mr Muyingo of failing to address the land problem despite the other interventions in his constituency.

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