As more parliamentary seats in Uganda fall under control of powerful families, calls grows for regulations
When the 442 new MPs of the 10th parliament take oath from May 16 to 18, Uganda will witness a never before seen event; a father and son in the same parliament. The history-making duo is of Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, Bright Rwamirama, who maintains his hold on the Isingiro North constituency since 2001, and his son, Mwine Mpaka, who is the new Youth MP (western Uganda).
Also in parliament will be Jimmy Akena who is MP of Lira Municipality in the same Lango area that his father; the late former President of Uganda, Apollo Milton Obote, represented in 1958. Akena is also holding the presidency of Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) in the family. His mother; Miria Kalule Obote held it before after inheriting it from his father, the late former President of Uganda, Apollo Milton Obote. Akena will be in parliament with his wife, Betty Amongi (Oyam South).
The Rwamiramas and Akenas are just a sample of families that appear to have a strangle-hold on constituencies of Uganda’s politics.
Some families might not have a history as long as Akena’s but their hold appears as strong. Take Veronica Nanyondo, the Women MP-elect for Bukomansimbi district. Until December last year, Nanyondo was a teacher with no known political ambition. But then her elder sister, Susan Namaganda who was Bukomansimbi District woman MP died abruptly in a motor vehicle accident on December 11, 2015. Four days later, at Namaganda’s burial, Nanyondo was anointed as her political successor within the family. Nanyondo went on to contest in her sister’s position on the opposition Democratic Party (DP) and on February 18, 2016, voters voted her into office, trouncing five other contestants. Nanyondo’s brother-in-law, Mukasa Mbidde who was the late Namaganda’s husband is a member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and Masaka chairman and national Vice president of the Democratic Party.
When The Independent spoke to Nanyondo on April 07, she was not shy of living in the shadow of her late sister.
When asked why she thinks the voters chose her among the rest, she was quick to mention her late sister’s strong manifesto and campaign slogan – `Beeyi y’ebirime’ loosely translated as ‘crop prices’ which many people could easily relate to.
The phenomenon of people from the same families raising to the same political leadership positions is no new to Uganda and neither is it local only.
In a previous case of Rubaga South Constituency, when then-MP John Ken Lukyamuzi ran afoul of an Inspector General of Government (IGG) requirement to declare his wealth and he was kicked out of parliament in 2006, he fronted his daughter Susan Nampijja. She won. But that was not the end of it. At the next election in 2011, the daughter this time gave way for her father to bounce back.
The trend had been set earlier in 2005 when Busiro South’s Patrick Musisi died only to be succeeded in parliament by his son Joseph Balikuddembe.
In 2007, relatives to two MPs succeeded them. Florence Adong, the wife to then-Labwor County MP, Prof. Omwony Ojwok came to take charge of her late husband’s seat while Sarah Mugeni of Samia-Bugwe constituency, succeeded her husband, Stephen Mugeni, who had been kicked out in an election petition.
The following year, Kyadondo’s North’s Robert Kasule Sebunya inherited his father, Israel Kibirige Sebunya’s seat. Later in 2011, Bahinduka Martin Mugarra came in to represent Ntoroko county constituency a seat his father Francis Mugarra had been occupying before he passed on in 2007.
In 2013, parliament saw the youngest parliamentarian come in. At only 19-years old and just from secondary school, Proscovia Alengot was chosen by a section of NRM leaders from Teso Sub-region to represent Usuk County after her father Micheal Oromait passed on.
But just after Proscovia, an equally young Florence Andiru joined parliament after her sister Cerinah Nebanda the Woman MP for Butaleja district died.