Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Political parties through their umbrella organization, the Interparty Organization for Dialogue [IPOD] had proposed an amendment to the electoral laws which would have seen people barred from contesting as independents if they lost party primaries.
This was one of the rarest cases in which opposition political parties like the Forum for Democratic Change [FDC] and the Democratic Party agreed with the ruling National Resistance Movement. But when the amendment was taken to parliament, it was defeated because some of the members feared that it might come back to haunt them.
Parliament currently has more independent members than all the opposition MPs combined. Of the 457 MPs in the 10th parliament, 66 are independent while FDC, the largest opposition party has 37, DP 15, UPC seven and JEEMA one. This brings to 60, the total number of opposition MPs.
Most of the independent MPs in the house today, many first lost party primaries before they contested as independents. Therefore, such an amendment would lock them out, and as it appears, what IPOD feared is already playing out in all the major political parties as almost all aspirants who were unsuccessful in getting their party’s ticket have indicated that they will go at it alone.
As Luwero is to the National Resistance Movement [NRM], so is Kampala to the National Unity Platform [NUP]. But the city support is now sagging after the nascent party whose president is Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu is struggling to tame members after last week’s release of its parliamentary flag bearers. For every position given out, there is one dissatisfied member who is running as an independent candidate.
Insiders who spoke to URN on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the process, say the process wasn’t as transparent as the party prides its self in being. “There was a lot of money exchanging hands, intrigue and absolute corruption in the way the ticket was given out. Little wonder that many people are complaining,” said our source.
Aspirants who spoke to URN maintain that there was a lot of mystery on how the party decided who should be the flag bearer. They say when they weigh themselves against their competitors who finally got the flag, they outweigh them on all the parameters that were used to measure the best candidate.
Dr Roy Ssembogga, a Makerere University former guild president who was competing with journalist Kazibwe Bashir Mbaziira to be the flag bearer for Kawempe South says describing as unfair the process of vetting would be an understatement.
He said that although he expected to receive preferential treatment because of his closeness to Kyagulanyi and his contribution to the struggle, in the worst case scenario, there should have been fairness in the assessment of the best candidate. Ssembogga told URN that because of the flagrant abuse of the vetting process, he thinks, the committee arrived at a wrong conclusion on selecting Kazibwe, a journalist with Bukedde Radio.
Sulaiman Kidandala, who is in charge of mobilization in the party was also denied the ticket for Kawempe North in favour of Kampala Capital City Authority councillor, Muhammad Ssegirinya. In a press conference today, Kidandala who was deputy Lord Mayor in Erias Lukwagao’s first tumultuous term said he too was contesting as an independent candidate.
He said that with Ssegirinya holding the flag, NUP would lose the seat to either NRM or another opposition party. “People are saying that they cannot move with any person other than Sulaiman Sserwadda Kidandala because there is a history to this. They know my capacity, I have been part of this constituency, I have worked with them, and they know what I can deliver,” Kidandala said.
He added that although his decision will rattle the party, it’s in line with what the people are telling him to do. Kidandala’s public statement comes just a day after the incumbent MP Latif Ssebaggala Ssengendo made a u-turn and declared that he’s still interested in the position.
Sebaggala bowed out of the Lord Mayoral race just two days after he was selected as NUP flag bearer saying his candidature might affect the opposition’s chances to retain the position currently held by Lukwago. But he used the burial of his elder brother Nasser Ntege Sebaggala on Sunday to indicate that he had flip-flopped again.
NUP is also facing revolts in Makindye East where Michael Mabikke Seninde is contesting as an independent candidate after the constituency ticket was given to Derrick Nyeko, a youth councillor at Makindye division. In Makindye West, Farouk Ntege, a brother to the Ssebaggala’s also refused to bow out of the race in favour of Allan Ssewanyana who was given the card.
In Lubaga South, Samuel Walter Lubega Mukaaku is coming as an independent against NUP flag bearer, Aloysius Mukasa while Moses Kasibante is also sticking to the contest in neighbouring Lubaga North after he was denied the flag in favour of Abubaker Kawalya. In Nakawa East, Kenneth Paul Kakande too is still in the race against Joel Sseyonyi. Kakande too is aggrieved with the process through which candidates were selected.
Speaking to URN, Joel Ssenyonyi said that it would be regrettable if those who were defeated in what he called a fair vetting process came as independents. “We tried to make this process as fair and transparent as possible. But you know whoever has not been given a ticket will find a reason to justify why they are coming as independents,” Ssenyonyi told URN.
The problem of independents is not plaguing NUP alone. The same is being experienced by the Forum for Democratic Change-FDC party where some of its members including the National Mobilization secretary Ingrid Turinawe has vowed to contest as an independent. Speaking to URN, John Kikonyogo, the deputy spokesperson of FDC said that although many parties are still struggling with internal democracy, it would be generally unacceptable for a person to come as an independent after he/she has been defeated in primaries.
Even in NRM, several candidates have already indicated that they are coming as independents. Naome Kabasharira, who was beaten by just 20 votes by Minister Mwesigwa Rukutana has said she will nominate as an independent to contest for the position of MP of Rushenyi County.
Benjamin Kalumba who was defeated in Nakawa West by Magret Zziwa is also contesting as an independent, the same for Semeo Nsubuga in Kassanda South among others. Therefore, as the Electoral Commission kicks off nominations, parties are scrambling to convince their dissatisfied members to swallow a humble pie and support flag bearers.
However, with the pronouncements being made by these aggrieved members, this seems like an uphill task especially with just days left to nominations which are to be held next week Monday and Tuesday.