In a stunning wave of results, all the 13 cabinet ministers from Buganda were defeated by opposition candidates, in particular those from Kyagulanyi’s National Unity Platform (NUP).
Results show that of Buganda’s 110 seats in parliament, NUP has 53, NRM 31 while 15 are Independents. Meanwhile, DP has seven while FDC has three. The humbling ends NRM’s dominance of the key strategic stronghold of Buganda. Four cabinet ministers, all of whom preferred anonymity, have intimated to The Observer that the continued brutalization of Kyagulanyi and his supporters on the campaign trail swayed the electorate to vote against them.
“The worst thing to happen was holding the election in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and then create a scientific campaign,” said a minister who hails from Greater Masaka sub-region.
“Every time I turned on television, there was brutality and torture of Bobi Wine supporters. Kyagulanyi being a Muganda, people became sentimental and turned against me because they believed I justified the brutality. If Bobi Wine had been allowed to campaign freely, I have no doubt I would have remained in parliament because people would have voted ideas, not personality as it turned out.”
Another minister who hails from Luweero said this was a protest vote.
“The people didn’t vote me because I was a nonperformer. I have brought a lot of development and created jobs for my electorate,” he said.
“However, the timing couldn’t have been any worse to be a minister after all the chaos and deaths witnessed in the campaign season. The voters were simply casting a protest vote against NRM and that did not play into my hands.”
However, one female minister blamed her defeat on radicalism.
“It is unfortunate the country is plunging into intolerance, especially among the youth,” she said.
“On several occasions, Bobi Wine radicals made it impossible for me to put for-ward my achievements or plans for the constituency by bullying other voters. Even during radio and television talk shows, his supporters often diverted me into defending some indefensible acts against his supporters. For most of the campaign trail, I found myself spending most of the time addressing Bobi Wine issues instead of my manifesto.”
To sum it up, another minister blamed the rise of social media for his defeat. “The scientific campaigning greatly cost me. First of all, people were coming from a lockdown in which they lost a lot of money yet they expected money from me,” he said.
“Matters were not helped by what they used to see on social media every day, especially the brutality against Bobi Wine and Patrick Amuriat. In my constituency, they buried three people who died during the riots. This turned the wave against me. Just look at the person who defeated me…he was a nobody but the anger people had tipped the scale against me.”
OTHER MISTAKES THAT COST NRM IN BUGANDA
One of the biggest eye-openers in Buganda is that President Museveni lost at the polling station where Vice President Edward Sekandi voted from. As results continued to come in, the vice president collapsed and was rushed to Bulamu medical centre in Masaka town.
Richard Ssebamala, the pro-Kyagulanyi DP candidate, eventually beat Ssekandi with 10,530 votes against 5,865. The voting patterns at the parliamentary level were similar in the presidential vote unlike in the past where opposition candidates in areas such as Bukomansimbi district won, but Yoweri Museveni, the NRM candidate, carried the presidential vote.
That is how districts such as Kalangala that have previously voted for the ruling party rejected all its candidates, giving Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (Bobi Wine) nearly 75 per cent of the vote and chose NUP’s Helen Nakimera for Woman MP, FDC’s Moses Kabuusu (Kyamuswa) and an NUP-leaning independent Julius Mukasa Opondo (Bujumba).
Kyagulanyi did not campaign in Kalangala after several police and military units were deployed on December 30, 2020 and arrested his entire campaign team, including some journalists who were covering his campaign trail. After about three hours of detention in the police’s mobile prison van, Kyagulanyi was airlifted in a military chopper out of Kalangala but leaving a worried NRM camp in the islands district since the actions of the security forces had angered the locals.
In days that followed, NRM leaders led by former MP Fred Badda met the resident district commissioner (RDC) Daniel Kikoola urging him to prevail over the police to at least free the local NUP supporters who were in detention at Kalangala police station.
Out of the 126 Kyagulanyi supporters that were arrested, 27 who were found to be residents of Kalangala district remained at the local police station as others were moved to Masaka. Kikoola and his deputy Bakunda Mushambo engaged the Kalangala district police commander, Benon Byamukama, who informed them that the file was in the hands of the CID director, Grace Akullo.
The NRM leaders in the district then turned to homeboy, Works and Transport minister, Gen Katumba Wamala, who engaged Akullo before flying the same ‘sinful’ chopper to Kalangala to free the 27 Kyagulanyi supporters without a charge, but a little late to undo the damage.
The state minister for Youth and Children Affairs Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi ended up cursing her own tongue for losing to Veronica Nanyondo. During Museveni’s campaign meeting in Masaka, the minister, in wanting to please Museveni, described Kyagulanyi as a drug addict who cannot be voted for by anyone in Masaka.
Realising it was a mistake, she attempted to reach out to Kyagulanyi but failed. The same fate befell Nakiwala’s colleagues in Kyotera and Kalungu districts, where attempts to change results fell flat.
Microfinance state minister Harunah Kyeyune Kasolo ran a violent campaign, sometimes using his military guards to terrorise opposition supporters, but lost the parliamentary seat to DP’s John Paul Mpalanyi Lukwago. Musician Geoffrey Lutaaya (NUP) capitalized on intrigue within the ruling party to beat Christopher Kalemba in Kakuuto as 25-year-old Fortunate Rose Nantongo claimed her late mother, Robinah Ssentongo’s seat.
She defeated Kasolo’s associate and NRM flag bearer, Rachael Nakitende. In Kalungu East, Agriculture minister Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja lost to NUP’s Francis Katabaazi Katongole who relocated to the constituency only after realizing that Ronald Evans Kanyike stood a better chance than he did in Bukoto East.
Being the minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Ssempijja found himself paying the price for the atrocities committed by UPDF soldiers that were deployed on Lake Victoria to enforce good fishing practices. The soldiers have been accused of causing the death of several people on the lake while others were left nursing serious injuries.
These atrocities were swept under the carpet that Ssempijja and other ministers as well as NRM candidates in the Masaka sub-region were left to pay the price. From Kiboga, a video of the government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa circulated with the Kiboga Woman MP telling her electorate that she wants to record 120 per cent victory for the NRM in the district.
“Even if it means getting cows to vote, let it be,” Nankabirwa says in the video.
The powerful Nankabirwa lost to little-known Christine Nakimwero Kaaya.
In Mukono North, efforts of the state minister for Water, Ronald Kibuule, to use soldiers to hijack voting materials for seven polling stations in Kyampisi sub-county were intercepted by the police and NUP vigilantes. In the end, Kibuule with 8,568 votes lost to NUP’s Abdallah Kiwanuka who garnered 18,680 votes.
DEFEATED MINISTERS FACE UNCERTAIN FUTURE
President Museveni hates election losers. He has proven in his 35 years in power that he rarely retains a minister who has lost an election. There are a few exceptions over the years like Abbey Kafumbe Mukasa in the nineties and Kirunda Kivejinja in the 2000s.
Even after the 2016 elections, he retained Kahinda Otafiire and Irene Muloni as Justice and Energy ministers, respectively. However, it is common knowledge that losing a parliamentary seat is a sure route to leaving cabinet. Therefore, going by the wave that swept Buganda ministers in the just-concluded elections; their days in cabinet are numbered, not to mention political futures that are hanging by a thread.
This was an overwhelming defeat but President Museveni will have to retain some of the ministers because he has a small pool to pick from in Buganda,” a political assistant to one of the fallen ministers told The Observer.
NRM ON DRAWING BOARD AFTER BUGANDA DEFEAT
Meanwhile, NRM vice chairperson Moses Kigongo and party Secretary General Justine Kasule Lumumba have admitted the poor performance is a wake-up call for the party.
“As a party, we need to find out what went wrong and what should be done. For example, in Buganda, you can’t say all those people [ministers] were not working, there must be other reasons,” Kigongo said.
Lumumba said it was now their responsibility as NRM big shots, especially her as secretary general and her team to ascertain what went wrong.
“Was it the secretary general’s problem, was the mistake with the structures of the party, was it within the government, was it elections issue-based?” Lumumba wondered.