Kasese, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | “An earthworm eats itself, and in Kasese, NRM eats itself,” says Gadi Mbahayi, the former Kasese District Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Registrar. He is also the immediate former Prime Minister of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu, which has been viewed as vital in swaying voters towards FDC.
Dr Kizza Besigye, a former FDC Presidential Candidate polled 56 per cent of the vote in the district in 2016. In the same direction, the party won all five parliamentary seats in the district, the only electoral area where it recorded such a feat. The council, also dominated by FDC is also chaired by an FDC stalwart.
FDC has 30 councillors, NRM 23 and one NRM leaning independent but (data on the Electoral Commission wrongly shows that FDC has 18 councillors, NRM has 15 and one independent candidate. The data on the website did not capture the women councillors.
FDC’s success in Kasese has been tied to the party leader’s—both at district and national level—a close relationship with Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu, according to area politicians and analysts. President Yoweri Museveni recognized the cultural institution in 2009 after losing Kasese to Besigye in 2006. At the time, Besigye had promised to categorically recognize it if he won the presidency.
In some villages such as in Murambi Parish, Kahokya Sub-county, Busongora South, where URN reporters interacted with local council leaders, FDC is a force to reckon with: it’s the ruling party in many local council areas.
Due to what is viewed as his immense contribution to the recognition of the Obusinga, Kasese District Chairperson, Geoffrey Sibendire Bigogo says, “Besigye is one of the most loved personalities” in the district.
In attempting to set apart Obusinga and the politics of Kasese, Mbahayi argues that NRM in Kasese was bedevilled by internal disagreement and it ended up with two candidates on most positions in 2016, who had to share votes yet FDC had one. “When two dogs fight for a bone, the third one takes it easily,” he argues.
But in 2016, NRM faced independent candidates on the LCV chairpersons position, in Bukonzo East and West constituencies, while the rest of the positions—District Woman MP, Kasese Municipality, Busongora South and North—were a one on one contest. Gadi Mbahayi’s argument, therefore, isn’t entirely accurate. Also, there tend to be few independents at the lower local council which FDC also won impressively.
In the 2021 race, incumbent Kasese Municipality MP Robert Centenary and Busongora South MP Mbaju Jackson are contesting as independent candidates. This “internal disorganization,” Sibendire Bigogo says will impact the performance of the party. NRM has more than one candidate on all constituency positions, except Bukonzo East and Bukonzo West.
However, party candidates contesting in the coming elections have divergent views on how FDC will perform.
Bigogo says the popularity of a presidential candidate largely contributes to the success of a party and that FDC is likely to face hurdles in attracting voters. He hopes that Besigye will be on the campaign trail with FDC presidential candidate, Patrick Oboi Amuriat, and if he visits Kasese, he will animate voters to stick to the party.
Mbanywana Misaki, an FDC parish councillor in Kahokya, Busongora South says without Besigye, “people will vote anybody.” But Florence Kabugho, the FDC Woman MP candidate says Kasese people love FDC as a party and it will win with or without Besigye in the presidential race.
For example, she argues that Christopher Kibazanga had a god-like status in FDC but when he crossed to NRM, he had to relocate to Bundibugyo to secure a seat in Parliament.
However, before joining NRM, Kibazanga, contesting on the FDC ticket was defeated in the District chairperson’s race in 2011 by Lt. Col. Dula Mawa. Kabugho argues that people in Kasese vote based on incidents. The November 2016 attack on the palace will disadvantage NRM, to the benefit of FDC.
Kabugho says the anticipated return of Charles Wesley Mumbere, the King of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzuru will not benefit NRM because voters cannot “be brainwashed like children.”
But Godfrey Kabbyanga, the Kasese Municipality Mayor forecasts that the 2016 attack will affect both parties. “It’s a double-edged sword. It affects both FDC and NRM because if you came as a messiah, why did this (attack) happen in your eyes? For years down the road, instead of going to ICC, why didn’t you negotiate with the government.”
Kabbyanga says people have started making informed judgement and apportioning blame to both NRM and FDC candidates in the area.