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Why Mbabaali remains favoured in Bukoto South

Muyanja Mbabaali (R) with Abdul Katuntu at parliament

Muyanja Mbabaali (R) with Abdul Katuntu at parliament

As the 2021 general elections draw closer, political forces in the ruling NRM and the opposition are aligning themselves to win seats for parliament. In this week’s edition of 2021 Political Pulse, Derrick Kiyonga analyses the constituency of Bukoto South in Lwengo district, where incumbent MP Muyanja Mbabaali is set to take on a divided opposition.

However, he faces a challenge from within the ruling party in the form of Getrude Nakabira Lubega, the former Lwengo Woman MP whom he defeated in 2016.

The tension is gradually building in Bukoto South, a Lwengo district constituency with about 50,000 voters. Muyanja Mbabaali, the incumbent, is seeking another term after easing his way to victory in 2016 when he won by 67 per cent.

CASE FOR MBABAALI

As we head into 2021, there is no doubt Mbabaali is the man to beat, especially after his biggest political challenger, DP’s Mathias Birekeraawo Nsubuga, passed in December 2016.

Mbabaali is an extremely wealthy businessman and has used this leverage to finance several NRM candidates in Masaka as well as create several development projects in the district, particularly targeting women and the vulnerable people.

“I believe I’ve really done well for the people of Bukoto South and the results are there for everyone to see on the ground,” said Mbabaali. “Anyone is free to come and challenge me but the voters of Bukoto South know who they will vote.”

But an era where a new opposition political force called People Power has emerged; Mbabaali may have to push harder to retain the seat.

CAN NAKABIRA MOUNT ANOTHER CHALLENGE?

But before he deals with any form of opposition on the ballot, he faces a challenge to retain the NRM card because Gertrude Nakabira Lubega is eyeing the seat.

Nakabira has played an integral part in Bukoto South politics, starting with the 2011 when she was elected Lwengo Woman MP on the NRM ticket.

So confident was Nakabira that in 2016, she opted to vacate the Woman MP seat to contest against Mbabaali but that proved unwise as she failed to dislodge him from the NRM ticket.

She went on to contest as an independent but could only garner 2,900 votes, less than 10 per cent of the vote. Meanwhile, Nakabira faces a hard time to convince NRM voters since it is on record that in the 2012 by-election, supported Nsubuga at the expense of NRM’s Alintuma Nsambu.

ENTER KIYIMBA

Abdul Kiyimba is the Nsangi sub-county chairman and rose to prominence as one of the powerful allies of former Police chief, Kale Kayihura.

Kiyimba’s scope of influence extended to Bukoto South, where he often engaged communities in Kkingo and Kisekka sub-counties in the fight against crime. It was unfathomable at the time that Kiyimba was laying a political foundation to unseat Mbabaali.

But since the dramatic fall from grace of Kayihura in 2017, Kiyimba went off the radar but is now mobilising to join parliament.

“I will tell you my final word in the coming days,” Kiyimba said when The Observer reached out to him.

Asked if his intention will not jeopardise NRM’s chances in the constituency, Kiyimba said the voters will decide. In the 2012 by-election, he joined Nakabira to defy President Museveni and campaign for Nsubuga.

DISUNITED OPPOSITION

The demise of Nsubuga left a huge gap in Bukoto South opposition, with no prominent figure coming out to challenge Mbabaali. DP is yet to declare a candidate, so has FDC and People Power amid confusion over who should hold the joint-opposition ticket.

The disunity in opposition was highlighted at the burial of former Pokino Frederick Walukejje Mulindwa in May. He is the father of DP legal advisor Samuel Muyizzi.

The event attracted several bigwigs and was expected to be the opposition’s Launchpad for a joint candidate but DP, FDC and People Power all refused to front any contender. Robert Kyagulanyi’s remarks at the ceremony that he will not endorse anyone further left the door open for any opposition figure to join the race.

Nonetheless, among the most vocal figures that have expressed interest in the seat is Dr Twaha Kagabo, who fronts himself as the new face of opposition.

However, People Power diehard Hakim Kizza Samula is also in the mix. Kizza is an activist and has been arrested multiple times during political demonstrations. He led the demonstrations in the constituency against the removal of the presidential age limit and is seen as the x-factor in the race due to his firebrand nature of politics.

Meanwhile, two-time former presidential candidate Abed Bwanika is said to be vying the seat. Bwanika has been moving around various Masaka constituencies and was thought to be eyeing to replace vice president Edward Ssekandi. But since Ssekandi is likely to contest again, Bwanika is said to have turned his guns on Mbabaali. Asked about the issue, Bwanika promised to get back to The Observer but had not done so by press time.

All this sets up an intriguing contest in the constituency but there is no doubt all eyes are on Mbabaali and it is hard to bet against anyone unseating him in 2021. The dynamics, though, could change if the opposition unites.

2016 RESULTS

Muyanja Mbabaali 14,410

Mathias Nsubuga (DP) 6,296

Gertrude Nakabira Lubega (IND) 2,955

Julius Ssentamu (FDC) 1,546

BUKOTO SOUTH AT A GLANCE

According to the 2014 National Population and Housing Census, Bukoto South had a population of 83,618 people of which 44 per cent were of voting age. Two sub-counties of Kkingo and Kisekka

Right from its formation in 1980, the constituency, which was the biggest in the country at the time to include present day Masaka municipality and Bukomansimbi district, was predominantly opposition leading.

Former minister Gerald Sendaula represented the constituency in 1980 on a Democratic Party ticket. When the constituency was split into three to accommodate Bukoto Central, Bukito South and Bukoto Midwest, he opted to represent Bukoto South in the Constituency Assembly.

However, he switched allegiance to NRM in the 1996 parliamentary elections and continued to represent the constituency until 2001 when he quit elective politics.

The paved way for NRM’s Late Dr Herbert Lwanga to take the mantle from 2001 till 2006 before he lost to DP’s Matia Nsubuga Birekerawo.

Nsubuga too lost the seat in 2011 to Mbabaali but the latter was thrown out of parliament the following year.

Nsubuga would reclaim the seat in 2012 in a hotly-contested by-election victory against Nsambu but would also be dislodged by Mbabaali in 2016.

WHO IS MBABAALI?

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and management from Nkumba University.

He attained a diploma in Information Technology from Uganda Pentecostal University and last year got a Masterclass Certificate in Business Management and Leadership from the Commonwealth University of England.

He holds an honorary doctorate from Commonwealth University of England.

Mbabaali is one of the first politicians to join President Museveni’s UPM in 1980 before the creation of NRM.   

In Bukoto South, he is the founder of the Rural Women Microfinance Limited.

He is also the patron, children of NRA fallen combatants.

The tension is gradually building in Bukoto South, a Lwengo district constituency with about 50,000 voters. Muyanja Mbabaali, the incumbent, is seeking another term after easing his way to victory in 2016 when he won by 67 per cent.

CASE FOR MBABAALI

As we head into 2021, there is no doubt Mbabaali is the man to beat, especially after his biggest political challenger, DP’s Mathias Birekeraawo Nsubuga, passed in December 2016.

Mbabaali is an extremely wealthy businessman and has used this leverage to finance several NRM candidates in Masaka as well as create several development projects in the district, particularly targeting women and the vulnerable people.

“I believe I’ve really done well for the people of Bukoto South and the results are there for everyone to see on the ground,” said Mbabaali. “Anyone is free to come and challenge me but the voters of Bukoto South know who they will vote.”

But an era where a new opposition political force called People Power has emerged; Mbabaali may have to push harder to retain the seat.

CAN NAKABIRA MOUNT ANOTHER CHALLENGE?

But before he deals with any form of opposition on the ballot, he faces a challenge to retain the NRM card because Gertrude Nakabira Lubega is eyeing the seat.

Nakabira has played an integral part in Bukoto South politics, starting with the 2011 when she was elected Lwengo Woman MP on the NRM ticket.

So confident was Nakabira that in 2016, she opted to vacate the Woman MP seat to contest against Mbabaali but that proved unwise as she failed to dislodge him from the NRM ticket.

She went on to contest as an independent but could only garner 2,900 votes, less than 10 per cent of the vote.

Meanwhile, Nakabira faces a hard time to convince NRM voters since it is on record that in the 2012 by-election, supported Nsubuga at the expense of NRM’s Alintuma Nsambu.

ENTER KIYIMBA

Abdul Kiyimba is the Nsangi sub-county chairman and rose to prominence as one of the powerful allies of former Police chief, Kale Kayihura.

Kiyimba’s scope of influence extended to Bukoto South, where he often engaged communities in Kkingo and Kisekka sub-counties in the fight against crime. It was unfathomable at the time that Kiyimba was laying a political foundation to unseat Mbabaali.

But since the dramatic fall from grace of Kayihura in 2017, Kiyimba went off the radar but is now mobilising to join parliament.

“I will tell you my final word in the coming days,” Kiyimba said when The Observer reached out to him.

Asked if his intention will not jeopardise NRM’s chances in the constituency, Kiyimba said the voters will decide. In the 2012 by-election, he joined Nakabira to defy President Museveni and campaign for Nsubuga.

DISUNITED OPPOSITION

The demise of Nsubuga left a huge gap in Bukoto South opposition, with no prominent figure coming out to challenge Mbabaali. DP is yet to declare a candidate, so has FDC and People Power amid confusion over who should hold the joint-opposition ticket.

The disunity in opposition was highlighted at the burial of former Pokino Frederick Walukejje Mulindwa in May. He is the father of DP legal advisor Samuel Muyizzi.

The event attracted several bigwigs and was expected to be the opposition’s Launchpad for a joint candidate but DP, FDC and People Power all refused to front any contender. Robert Kyagulanyi’s remarks at the ceremony that he will not endorse anyone further left the door open for any opposition figure to join the race.

Nonetheless, among the most vocal figures that have expressed interest in the seat is Dr Twaha Kagabo, who fronts himself as the new face of opposition.

However, People Power diehard Hakim Kizza Samula is also in the mix. Kizza is an activist and has been arrested multiple times during political demonstrations. He led the demonstrations in the constituency against the removal of the presidential age limit and is seen as the x-factor in the race due to his firebrand nature of politics.

Meanwhile, two-time former presidential candidate Abed Bwanika is said to be vying the seat. Bwanika has been moving around various Masaka constituencies and was thought to be eyeing to replace vice president Edward Ssekandi. But since Ssekandi is likely to contest again, Bwanika is said to have turned his guns on Mbabaali. Asked about the issue, Bwanika promised to get back to The Observer but had not done so by press time.

All this sets up an intriguing contest in the constituency but there is no doubt all eyes are on Mbabaali and it is hard to bet against anyone unseating him in 2021. The dynamics, though, could change if the opposition unites.

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