By Julius Odeke
Pundits say kinship could trump party loyalty
President Yoweri Museveni understands the famous saying that in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies but permanent interests; in this case, the interests of NRM.
The President was in Butaleja recently campaigning for Florence Nebanda Andiru, another daughter of Alice Namulwa Mukasa who, barely a month ago, tore up Museveni’s speech and hurled the pieces at the Third Deputy Prime Minister Moses Ali who represented him at the burial of her daughter, the late Butaleja District Woman MP, Cerinah Nebanda Arioru.
Andiru, 27, is one of five candidates vying to replace Nebanda in parliament and Museveni was in Butaleja to ensure that the NRM gets a block party vote for her.
Andiru defeated five other NRM contenders; Mary Mboira, Alen Wegulo, Betty Nesihwe, Aidah Hadoto, and Sarah Namusabi, to become the party flag-bearer. But her victory was thin as she got 38,978 votes while her nearest challenger, Wegulo, garnered 34,028 votes and some of the losers rejected the results and were vowing to back rival candidates. Museveni calculated that their threats, if executed, could split the NRM vote and hand victory to the opposition.
Andiru, who hopes to ride on her late sister’s famous name, recently swore an affidavit to adopt the name “Nebanda”. She is contesting against four others; Betty Hamba (Independent), Felista Namwihiri (FDC), Perusi Munaba (Independent) and Sarah Annet Logose (Independent).
When the NRM team met, the Butaleja District Chairman, Hajji Imran Muluga, told Museveni that Andiru is likely to win since all the five NRM contenders she defeated in the primaries were now canvassing votes for her.
But reports from Butaleja say Museveni’s visit could have caused fresh splits. It is alleged that President Museveni gave money to a few supporters and that those left out are now threatening to shift alliance.
Betty Hamba is one candidate who stands to gain from any divisions within the main parties. Running as an independent, she is hoping to capitalise on the popularity of her father, the prominent billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist, Alfred Higenyi Mwenembiye Jala.
Her camp says that unlike the others, Hamba is not running because she seeks political office but merely to get a platform for serve the community of Butaleja better.
Her father, Higenyi owns Ntinda View College which is one of the top schools in Kampala. He also owned Lugazi University before it was taken over by the Ministry of Defence and turned into a military training school.
In Butaleja, he has initiated numerous development projects including provision of over 300 free boreholes to residents of the water-scarce district. He has lately built a new hotel, Namuswa Gardens in Mazimasa Sub County.
The opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) is for the first time fielding a candidate, Felista Namwihiri.
Namwihiri is a relative unknown but FDC Secretary General Alice Alaso says she is popular because of the work she has done in the district.
“The people of Butaleja know the reason why Ugandans do not want NRM and in particular President Museveni, so they will vote for Namwihiri,” she said. Alaso and other FDC top-guns with mobilization skills like Leader of Opposition in Parliament Nandala Mafabi, party President Mugisha Muntu, and party firebrand Kizza Besigye are rooting for Namwihiri.
Namwihiri’s candidature is expected to split the vote between her and Andiru in Butaleja Rural Sub County. Kinship matters in rural politics and both are seen as daughters of the soil.
But Andiru’s opponents are once again pointing at her name to say she should go and contest in her “home district”. When the late MP, Cerinah Nebanda, campaigned in 2010-2011, the issue of her `foreignness’ came up but she still won. Andiru’s uncle, Nuwa Higenyi, says his niece is the best choice and those campaigning on name and origin of their candidate will lose.
“What they are doing will rally support for us without knowing and that is our advantage always,” he told The Independent.
Andiru and her late sister, Nebanda, are children of the late Peter Waiga of Maracha in West Nile region. When asked about it, Andiru’s mother, Namulwa told The Independent that provided her children are Ugandans, she does not see anything wrong with them contesting in Butaleja district.
“I thought one of the qualifications for one to contest for elections in Uganda is that you need to be a Uganda and that requirement my daughters have it,” she said.
It is unclear how the name factor will play out between Andiru and Namwihiri who both hail from Bunyole West constituency which has 44,134 voters. If there a split, it could favour Hamba who is from Mazimasa Sub-County in Bunyole East and is hoping to capitalize of its voting power of 50,241.
Butaleja has twelve sub counties and candidates tend to thrive on the numerical strength of the sub county one hails from.
Historically, the Woman’s MP race in Butaleja has been determined by performance in the sub-counties with the highest number of electorates; Kachonga (8,749), Mazimasa (12,522) and Naweyo (8401). All are in Hamba’s Bunyole East.
There other independent candidates Logose and Munaba who hail from Busolwe and Busaba sub-counties are not to be written off. These areas, which are predominantly Muslim, are known to vote as a block. If they back Hamba as a daughter from their sub-county, they could prove to be kingmakers.
It is on this note that political analysts say Hamba may clinch the day if she plays her cards well by winning the hearts of voters from Bunyole East constituency.
But Munaba told The Independent that the outcome will also be a reflection on the popularity of three camps that have emerged; the camp of Bunyole East MP, Emmanuel Dombo, the camp of NRM Deputy Secretary General, Dorothy Hyuha who was appointed ambassador after Cerinah Nebanda trounced her in 2011, and the camp of Nebanda.