As NRM takes Kotido, Ibanda, Sheema, Nebbi
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | Asuman Basalirwa, the MP-elect for Bugiri Municipality, confesses that people had always addressed him as a Member of Parliament before the just concluded election that sent him to the August House for the first time. During a television interview on the morning of July 30, Basalirwa revealed that officials in government and those who meet him in the various places his political work takes him, constantly addressed him as “Honourable”.
He mentioned the times when he appeared in court and was addressed as an MP and at various events organised by the Opposition. However he had stood three times unsuccessfully for the parliamentary seat of Bukooli North, in Bugiri district, and lost.
“Winning an election is a very exciting and satisfying thing because we go through a lot,” he says now.
Basalirwa who is the president of the little known JEEMA party bagged 3,928 votes to beat his closest challenger, Francis Oketcho, of the NRM who polled 3,267 votes. The FDC candidate Eunice Namatende came third with 928 votes and the party performed dismally in several parliamentary elections held in municipalities on the same day, July 27.
The Bugiri municipality election got extra attention because of the actors involved. When Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi backed Basalirwa three months ago, it set the tempo for the election because he was going to lock horns with FDC, a party he allied with to defeat the ruling NRM in two by-elections; Jinja Municipality East and the Rukungiri Woman MP seat.
The contest in Bugiri was also seen as a turf war between Dr Kizza Besigye, former FDC president and four time presidential flag-bearer, and Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine whose popularity as a musician saw him romp to victory in 2017 in a parliamentary by-election.
Before the nominations, JEEMA and FDC were in talks to have Basalirwa as the joint candidate but the talks yielded nothing and the two camps traded some harsh words against each other. Basalirwa’s camp felt betrayed by FDC, saying Basalirwa had always fought FDC legal battles on the many instances party supporters were detained on frivolous charges.
On the other hand Kyagulanyi had clarified earlier in June on his support for Basalirwa. “We have seen him crisscross courts of law- from the lowest to the highest, defending opposition leaders, representing activists and arguing the case for good governance and human rights for all. In 2016, we saw him aggressively argue the presidential election petition,” he wrote.
From the Bugiri election, Kyagulanyi has emerged as a political force to reckon with even though Basalirwa seems to downplay it.
“Bobi Wine found me in the struggle which I joined in 1998, what people need to know is that we have been around for some time. There’s nothing like a third force but he represents a generation that believes,” the former Guild president at Makerere University said when asked about the influence of the singer turned politician on his election victory.
However some sources in Bugiri say Basalirwa has Kyagulanyi to thank for his new fortunes. “He was not popular. He only won because of the Bobi Wine effect,” Waiswa Batambuze, who hails from Bugiri told The Independent.
After leading a social media tax protest in Kampala streets and helping Basalirwa clinch a parliamentary seat in one month, observers are looking out for the next card Kyagulanyi will play in a field dominated by Museveni and Besigye.
Tumwesigye takes Sheema
Meanwhile, Elioda Tumwesigye, the Minister for Science and Innovation, was declared MP-elect for Sheema municipality after beating FDC’s Virginia Plan Mugyenyi with a comfortable 2000 votes. In his first press conference after the victory, Tumwesigye accused the FDC of rigging votes whenever it takes part in elections.
Tumwesigye’s win means there will be a by-election in Sheema North which he represents.
But the FDC team protested the election outcome. Supporters of Mugyenyi say she was in the lead in the night of the election count only for Tumwesigye to be declared winner shortly.
Mugyenyi issued a statement a day after the poll decrying a heavy presence of the army, arrests of her agents, intimidation and bribery of voters.
In Ibanda, Tarsis Rwaburindore of the NRM was declared winner of the Ibanda municipality parliamentary election with a total of 13,331 votes. Peter Agaba, an independent candidate came second with a total of 12,850 votes and Alex Byarugaba of the FDC came third. The ruling party also won in Kotido with Peter Abrahams Lokii scooping 4,248 votes against a measly 137 of FDC’s Moses Oriono Okot. In Nebbi, the NRM’s Hashim Sulaiman trounced FDC’s Robert Onega by 324 votes when he polled 4,483 against the latter’s 4,159 votes.